The Best Hot Spring Towns to Enjoy Fall Foliage | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan
onsen hot springs in fall

The Best Hot Spring Towns to Enjoy Fall Foliage 

By Margherita Oct 7, 2022

I consider autumn one of the best seasons to travel around Japan. The temperature is excellent, and the country offers a combination of two elements that can never go wrong together during this season: beautiful fall foliage and cozy and warm hot springs. 

Visit These Hot Springs to Enjoy Nature’s Beautiful Fall Foliage

Here is our selection of some of the best onsen where you can enjoy fall foliage this autumn while soaking up all the beneficial effects of spring water.

Ginzan Onsen (Yamagata)

ginzan onsen and fall foliage

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Ginzan Onsen, one of Yamagata’s most famous hot spring towns is one of the best places to admire fall foliage in the entire country. Not only are the colors of nature astonishing, but they pair perfectly with the rustic woody inns that characterize the village, making the town look like a location from an animation movie.

Want to know what a stay here is like? Check out this Guidable article!

Shirahone Onsen (Nagano)

Shirahone Onsen, near Matsumoto in Nagano prefecture, is a collection of “ryokan” (traditional Japanese inns) within the Chubu Sangaku National Park. “Shirahone” translates as “white bone”, and you will understand why by looking at the milky white waters of the area, rich in magnesium and calcium that give the water this peculiar color.

Shirahone onsen is a great setting to enjoy autumnal colors, where the vibrant orange and red color of the leaves contrast with the opaque, pearl-like white water of the hot springs, creating a serene and unique autumnal scenery.

Ikaho Onsen (Gunma)

Ikaho onsen in fall

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Ikaho Onsen is a famous hot spring with a long history of almost 1,900 years, known for its iron-rich thermal waters, which turn red-brown and have a metallic taste. The core of the small village is centered around a 300-meter-long stone stair, crowded with hotels, ryokan, and bathhouses. Autumn is the perfect season to visit, as you can admire the fall foliage on the Kajika Bridge, which is also usually lit up during this season in a full-on Japanese atmosphere.

Other than the hot spring resort and inns area, many museums, temples, and shrines, as well as Shibukawa Skyland Park and Ikaho Green Farm are nearby, perfect for a memorable multiple-day getaway. 

Is it your first time visiting an onsen? Check out this article about our intern’s first-time experience.

Minakami Onsen (Gunma)

Minakami onsen town in fall

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Minakami Onsen is probably one of the most popular and famous hot spring resort areas around Tokyo. Minakami Onsen is located in Gunma prefecture, easily reachable in a little more than one hour by bullet train.

In particular, the ryokan of Takaragawa Onsen, offers some of the largest and most famous “rotenburo” (outdoor baths) in Japan. 

Guests who are using the onsen facilities but are not staying overnight at the inn can use the open mixed-gender baths during the day after purchasing the bathing dress provided at the facility. The scenery from the bath along the river changes greatly with the seasons and it is one of the greatest spots to admire the fall foliage from inside the onsen. 

The second most famous onsen in the area is Hoshi Onsen, which is an isolated hot spring located deep in the mountainous region of Minakami, part of Joshinetsu Kogen National Park. Many famous writers such as Akiko Yosano and Yasunari Kawabata have visited this onsen and the whole establishment has been registered as a tangible cultural property of Japan.

onsens in fall

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Yubara Onsen (Okayama)

Yubara Onsen, located in a famous hot-spring area in Okayama prefecture, includes one of western Japan’s leading “rotenburo” (outdoor baths), called “Sunayu.”, which is also the symbol of the town.

Sunayu, surrounded by rocks in the Asahi river bed is open 24 hours and no entrance fee is required. 

The bath is not divided by gender so you can bathe by wrapping a towel around your body or you can purchase the dedicated garment available at the nearby reception.

Sunayu is surrounded by trees which start to turn red in October and create picture perfect autumnal scenery.

Hot Springs x Fall Foliage

These are only some of the best hot spring towns to enjoy the fall foliage this autumn, but Japan is so rich in onsen and scenic autumnal spots you will definitely need more than one autumn to explore them all! Start with one of these and make your way through the prettiest and coziest onsen where you can admire the colors of autumn.

Ginzan Onsen: A Stay at the Famous Notoya Ryokan

My First-Time Experience in a Japanese Onsen & What I Wish I Knew