When you think of an onsen, what springs to mind? Tranquil steaming pools surrounded by misty mountains and bamboo groves? This is probably the the ideal image of a hot springs getaway, but there are actually over 200 onsen facilities to be found amidst the high-rise office blocks and busy roads of central Tokyo. And there’s soon to be one more to enjoy in Otemachi, right in the heart of Tokyo’s business district.
Even though the prefecture is home to barely a million residents, Oita has not one, but two famous hot spring resorts. Yufuin is generally held to be the more refined and tastefully restrained of the pair, while Beppu, despite having some of the most popular hot springs in Japan, gets saddled with the reputation as the more touristy town.
While there may be some truth to the labels, there’s one thing Beppu has that you won’t find in Yufuin, or anywhere else in the country for that matter: Japan’s only hot spring with three Michelin stars.
Wow, Japan, is that a giant wooden phallus in your hot springs, or are you just happy to see m–oh. I see. Well, uh, I’ll just be on my way then. Um…maybe one quick photo…
As you are surely already aware, Japan has quite a few unusual, phallic festivals allegedly intended to be fertility rites for couples hoping for children. They’re also great attractions for curious tourists or anyone who wants to try frosted penis-bananas. Iwate Prefecture, perhaps not wanting to be left out, has a phallus festival of its own. Its standout feature? The phallus riding event! And, great news, ladies, they’re taking applications!
(Before clicking below, use your best judgement about whether or not this is something you should be reading at work.)
Tokyo may be the largest city in the world, but Tokyoites still long for the comforts of rural Japan. While the less populous cities don’t have all the luxuries of a major metropolitan city, what they have in spades are hot springs. Hot springs remain one of the most popular getaway destinations for the busy Japanese worker. Day trips, short weekend trips, everyone longs for the chance to relax in the soothing waters of a hot spring.
But where do you find a nice, relaxing hot spring within the 23 wards of Tokyo? Is it really possible to find one that is reasonably priced? Can you find one where people respect the rules? Where guests won’t immediately enter the bath before washing themselves which makes the water dirty and suspicious? Where you won’t have to wonder what that thing floating in the water is? The answer is a resounding yes and it’s closer than you think!
- Michelle Lynn Dinh
Jan 21, 2014
We’re sure most of you have already seen photos of the little capybaras bathing in their own private onsen hot spring at the Izu Shaboten Park in Shizuoka, Japan. Now with a little creative food play, you can put your very own capybara in hot water…and eat them too. But what are they made out of?
If you’ve ever experienced a soak in a hot outdoor spring, or rotenburo, in the middle of the snow, you’ll know the incredible sensation of extreme cold and heat on your body is an experience that’s hard to beat. With the best of the snow still to come in January and February, we’ve found five of the best snow-covered hot spring destinations perfect for a weekend getaway. From water slides to goblin masks, this collection of winter snowscapes will help you beat the winter chill in the most unique way possible.
- Joan Coello
Dec 13, 2013
Japan is famous for being an onsen (hot spring) nation, so much so that a friend of mine preaches that “if you’ve never been to an onsen, then you’ve never been to Japan”. Quite the extremist, but you get the idea. Japanese hot springs come pretty close to “heaven on earth”.
But Japan’s neighboring country, Taiwan, also has some fabulous hot springs to boot! The fact that there are onsen-loving Japanese people who travel to Taiwan for a soak is sufficient to vouch for the quality of these bubbling hot baths. Here’s a list of five onsen hot spots you wouldn’t want to miss on your trip to Taiwan!
- Preston Phro
Dec 11, 2013
Japan is practically overflowing with hot, bubbling water it seems and nearly every city and town has a local spring or public bath for people to get a nice soak. Called “onsen” in Japanese, hot spring spas or baths are one of the most enduring symbols of Japanese culture.
Today, we bring you a fact-filled list of Japanese onsen trivia! Impress your friends with your knowledge and find somewhere to go soothe your aching heart when they get mad at you for being so smart.
The capybaras at the Izu Shaboten Park in Shizuoka Prefecture are somewhat of a celebrity here in Japan, and you may recall this isn’t the first time we’ve brought you a story about them. Now, we’re pleased to report that the lovable rodents have recently welcomed some adorable new additions to their family. So, here’s your chance to meet the new babies of the family, and what’s more, you may even be able to give them a name!
- Casey Baseel
Jun 10, 2013
There’s no nation in the world that loves hot springs more than Japan. Known as onsen (lit. warm 温, and spring 泉), there are very few Japanese alive who could ever claim to having never taken a dip. If you’re tired, you head to the onsen; if you’re going on holiday, you visit an onsen; you go to the onsen to hang out with your friends, on a date, to relax with the family – anything is an excuse to strip off and let the hot water soak your aches, pains and worries away!
But onsen actually exist all over the world, even in America. Today our Japanese reporter Yoshio reports on his stay at a hot spring hotel in America, and his experiences in their natural sulfur spa. Let’s find out if the US’s version of the hot spa stands up to our reporter’s rigorous testing…
Is the fountain of youth located in Japan? New study supports beauty claims of famous Japanese hot spring
- Michelle Lynn Dinh
May 24, 2013
Due to its location in the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” Japan has many onsen (natural hot springs). The mineral composition of each onsen varies and is said to provide bathers with different health benefits. One onsen in particular, named Ryujin (lit. Dragon God), is also known as bijin no yu or “the beautiful women hot spring.” It is hailed as a hot spring for enhancing beauty and the waters are said to smooth and moisturize skin. Despite these claims being repeated for hundreds of years, some may still be skeptical. However, a recent study suggests that the waters of Ryujin Onsen actually have beautifying capabilities.
Have you ever seen a capybara? Originally from South America, and immensely popular in Japan, capybaras are actually the world’s largest rodents. They can weigh as much as a person, can run as fast as a young horse, and they can bark and purr. But that’s not all. These cute little animals love to bathe in Japanese-style hot springs. And when they do, they do it with such blissful expressions that you can’t help but smile.
- Michelle Lynn Dinh
Mar 12, 2013
What a good old dog. Just soaking away in the tub with her rubber duckies. This little shiba inu is named Kinako and she loves taking baths. Since Kinako is an older doggie, her skin get irritated from time to time, so she enjoys taking a relaxing dip in the bathtub every night. The following video is a minute and a half of Kinako smiling in the tub. But really, Kinako’s snow-white face peeking out of the water is so cute, that’s really all you need.
So, have you seen the movie Ted yet? If you have, I’m sure many of you will agree that it’s an absolutely hilarious movie (probably not profound or enlightening in any way, and you may even lose a couple of brain cells watching it, but yes, definitely hilarious)! Well, it appears the antics of the cute teddy bear with a bad mouth and a dirty mind has captured the hearts of movie goers in Japan, because as of last weekend, the movie is the top box office hit in Japan. But what does a middle-aged borderline delinquent teddy bear have to do with a hot spring bath? Read More
- Philip Kendall
Jan 22, 2013
When we first caught sight of these images, we wondered whether we ought to go back and update our recent unusual hot spring resort article. Checking the location of these hot spa resort hotels, though, we soon learned that – despite looking unmistakably Japanese in every way – these hotels are actually situated in none other than Taiwan. And I always thought the British dull for seeking out an English pub as soon as they arrive abroad…
Enormous photo dump after the jump!
- Master Blaster
Jan 19, 2013
On 15 January, a tweet emerged revealing a secret Google Maps Street View available nestled deep in a valley in Nagano Prefecture. The tweet simply read “Open-air bath on full display in Street View.”
- Philip Kendall
Jan 16, 2013
During these chilly winter months, there’s nothing quite like taking a dip in a natural hot spring and feeling your aching muscles soften like a pan of chocolate on a warm log cabin stove. But if you’ve seen every onsen (hot spring) that Japan has to offer or are simply wishing to avoid the crowds of like-minded visitors, locating a new place to bathe isn’t easy. Thankfully, help is at hand.
In an article over at Yahoo! Japan’s R25 digital magazine, a member of the Nihon Onsen Kyoukai (Japan Hot Spring Association) lets readers in on three little-known, not to mention rather unusual, hot spring locations that are sure to leave you with plenty of tales to tell family and friends. All the juicy info after the break.
Don’t Forget Your ‘Wrap Towel’! Our Female Reporter Experiences Japanese Mixed Public Bathing for the First Time
- Andrew Miller
Dec 25, 2012
When it comes to mixed bathing in public, it is an experience that perhaps most of us are unfamiliar with. In many respects the aspect of unfamiliarity is only just the beginning; acting naturally around not only strangers, but those of the opposite-sex — whilst baring all, no less — is undeniably something that requires great courage! It is with such bravery that our female reporter, Tomoe, entered into a Japanese “konyoku” to experience what all the fuss was about first hand!
“Admittedly, the male bathers’ glances were something that played on my mind a little, however this in itself had its own element of fascination,” admits Tomoe.
There’s nothing quite like taking a dip in a hot springs to warm chilled bones during the cold months. In Japan, soaking in hot springs water, or onsen, is considered the ultimate form of relaxation—so much that even Japanese animals, such as the “snow monkeys” of northern Nagano, seek them out.
But it’s not just native species who appreciate Japan’s thermal waters; every year, Izu Shaboten Park, a theme park and zoo located in Ito City Shizuoka, runs a hot springs for their capybara to help them make it through Japan’s cold winter season.
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