Why Visiting Onsen in Summer Is a Must-Do! Try These Summer Onsen Destinations in Japan | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

Why Visiting Onsen in Summer Is a Must-Do! Try These Summer Onsen Destinations in Japan

By Guidable Writers May 17, 2024

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Have you ever been to a Japanese onsen? Onsen are natural hot springs, renowned for their mineral-rich waters. Communal bathing in an onsen is an important part of Japanese culture, often indulged in for relaxation, health benefits, and socializing. Popular resort areas are often built up around onsen, featuring indoor onsen and outdoor onsen, which are called rotenburo. Join us as we delve into the world of onsen—and why a trip to onsen in summer should be on your to do list!

Soothing Soaks: Discovering the Best Onsen in Japan for a Refreshing Summer

Check out our list below for the best summer onsen destinations.

Atami Onsen

atami onsen

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You may have heard of Atami before. It is one of the most famous onsen resorts in Japan. Atami is a city located on the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka. It is said that the first Tokugawa shogun loved Atami Onsen. There are many onsen hotels along the beaches, so you can enjoy beach life during the day and relax in a scenic onsen at night. You’ll also find beachside fireworks shows you can watch during the summer. If you go to Atami in the warmer months, you can enjoy onsen, the beach, and fireworks in the same place. If you love seafood there are lots of fresh fish to indulge in too. 

The quickest way to Atami from Tokyo is by taking the JR Tokaido Shinkansen (which takes around 40-50 minutes, about 4000 yen one way). For a more economical trip, take the local and rapid trains along the JR Tokaido Line (100-120 minutes, 1980 yen one way).

Beppu Onsen

beppu onsen jigoku

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Beppu is an onsen town in Oita prefecture featuring over 2,300 hot spring sources. The area is surrounded by nature and is famous both for the onsen to soak and relax and for the sightseeing springs called “Beppu Jigoku.” These Beppu Jigoku onsen (literally “Beppu Hell”) are named for the boiling hot ponds, springs, and geysers that look just like what people imagine hell to look like. They are extremely hot and for viewing only.

Beppu produces more hot spring water than anywhere else in Japan and is home to some unique types of onsen, such as sand, mud, and steam. The Enjoy Onsen website offers travel inspiration and insights on manners and etiquette.

From Tokyo, it takes around 5 hours and 40 minutes to reach Oita via the Sanyo Shinkansen (change at Kokura), so make sure you set aside some time for getting there and back—perfect for a longer summer holiday. It’ll take around 3 hours from Shin-Osaka by shinkansen, 2 hours from Hakata on the Nippo Main Line, and for those in Ehime Prefecture, you can hop on the ferry from Yawatahama and arrive in 2 hours and 40 minutes. 

Kusatsu Onsen

kusatsu onsen gunma

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Gunma Prefecture, in northern Kanto, is home to Kusatsu Onsen. This onsen is 1,200 meters above sea level and retains the feeling of an old Japanese onsen town. In summer, put on a yukata to participate in the traditional atmosphere, stroll around the picturesque town and view the Yubatake, the source of the town’s hot spring water. There are great hiking trails nearby, too, so if you like the outdoors, make the most of the summer in Kusatsu.

The accommodations in this town include ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), resort hotels, western-style boarding houses, and private residences. You can find the perfect place to stay based on your needs. If you are staying or living around Tokyo or the Kanto area, this is a great place for a short trip.

You can get to Kusatsu via a direct highway bus from Shinjuku, Shibuya and Tokyo, which will take around 4 hours or for a quicker route take the JR limited express train from Ueno Station to Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi Station (2 hr 15 min).

Kinugawa Onsen

kinugawa onsen in summer in japan

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Kinugawa Onsen is a hot spring resort that banks the Kinugawa River in Tochigi prefecture. It’s easily accessible from Tokyo and a bus ride from Nikko and staying here is a great way to add some relaxation to your Nikko trip. The healing hot spring waters are alkaline, which helps ease neurological pains and reduce tiredness.

It is said that these hot springs were discovered during the Edo Period (1603-1868), and at that time, only highly-ranking people or priests could bathe there. Now, it’s a popular onsen spot with ample hotels and ryokan. Sightseeing spots around the onsen include Nikko Toshogu, Tobu World Square, Nikko Edo Mura, and more. 

Like Kusatsu Onsen, it is relatively easy for those who are in the Kanto area to get to Kinugawa Onsen. You can get to Kinugawa Onsen from Tokyo using the Tobu Railway from Asakusa Station, costing around 3,500 for a two-hour journey on the limited express or 1,590 yen for a local train. There are only a few trains a day, so be sure to check what times are available before you travel. 

Hakone Yumoto Onsen

hakone onsen

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Hakone is probably one of the most famous onsens in the Kanto area. Because of the location, it’s possible to get there from Tokyo in only 85 minutes by Romance Car Limited Express (for around 2,470) on the Odakyu Line. The onsen has a long history and contains many spring sources.

There are also traditional buildings, temples, and beautiful nature spots to visit. Take a trip around the lake for beautiful views of Mount Fuji, take a stroll around the Hakone Open-Air Museum to enjoy art in a stunning green backdrop. When you are hungry after enjoying sightseeing and onsen, try this town’s famous soba (buckwheat noodles).

Arima Onsen

arima onsen

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Arima Onsen is located in Hyogo Prefecture, thirty minutes from the center of Kobe City by Shinkansen or one hour from Osaka by car. This onsen spot has been beloved by many for its traditional accommodations and atmosphere. The historical onsen area is surrounded by nature, and the combination of the greenery and the hot water is especially relaxing. You can spend the day by walking along the nature trail, trying some delicious food and exploring the town with its Edo-style wooden buildings. 

Traditional Culture at Japanese Onsen

Onsen have been loved by many people for a long time. If you want to experience Japanese culture by having an onsen experience, there are many places to go. Many of these places are good to visit in the summer to spend time at the beach. Some places are good to visit in summer as they have beaches around them. Onsen tend to be located outside of urban areas, making summer vacation the best time to plan an onsen trip. Onsen melts away the stress of daily life and give you the energy to seek out adventure. 

Find your favorite onsen and have a great summer vacation.

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