Onsen, which means hot springs in Japanese, are popular destinations year around and can be found all over Japan. In the spring time, there’s the added attraction of bathing in a natural hot spring al fresco, surrounded by greenery and flowers after the long winter.
Healing powers in onsen water are said to come from various mineral content, helping to alleviate muscular aches and pains as well as soften your skin, among other benefits. Medical conditions aside, an onsen experience provides pure relaxation – bathing alone in a private onsen, or together with family and friends, followed by a multi-course dinner of seasonal specialities, if you are staying at an onsen ryokan (inn). Notably, you don’t need to dress up for dinner – your yukata (cotton robe) suffices as your attire anywhere inside the inn so you can pretty much roll into bed afterwards.
Just outside Tokyo, the mountain resort of Hakone offers a number of hot springs suitable for every budget level. There’s the pricey Gora Kadan but one can make a day trip from the capital and enjoy bathing in an onsen very economically, for example at the Yumoto Fujiya Hotel where day guests pay only 1,800 yen ($15 at the current exchange rate). In fact, some of these day spas offer a buffet lunch as well!
As a side note, the Yumoto Fujiya’s sister hotel in Hakone, the Fujiya Hotel, is known as the first resort hotel in Japan, established in 1878.
One of the oldest onsen in Japan is Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, which boasts a 3,000-year history. The main building of the communal town bath, Dogo Onsen Honkan, was built in 1894 and is said to have been the inspiration for animator Hayao Miyazaki’s Academy Award®-winning movie, “Spirited Away”.
And what better way to enjoy an onsen than during cherry blossom season? The forecast for the first bloom of the cherry blossoms in the Tokyo area is estimated to be around March 26 this year. Even if you don’t read Japanese, the pictures say it all on this travel page with a sampling of hot springs which offer hanami (flower viewing).
Meanwhile, enjoy a taste of the Oriental spring in your home with our Oriental Gardenia bath salts!