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.

1. Kita Onsen, Tochigi Prefecture

If you’re looking for a little-known hot spring with gorgeous snow views not far from Tokyo, Kita Onsen is definitely the place to go. Hidden in a mountain valley and accessible only on foot, cars have to be parked a ten minute walk uphill from the tiny onsen town. While the baths here can be enjoyed throughout the year, the silence in winter as you approach the area is truly magical. Surrounded by wooden buildings from the Edo, Meiji and Showa periods, a journey here is like stepping back in time.


▼ Kita onsen is said to have been discovered by a tengu, a long-nosed mountain goblin, about 1,200 years ago. A special bath is adorned with huge tengu masks in honour of its mythical founder.


▼ The women’s bath, with a lovely view of snow, was used exclusively by daughters of noblemen in the Edo period.


▼ The most famous of Kita onsen’s three baths is the hot spring swimming pool. The 15 x 10 metre bath has a unique water slide popular with children and although it’s a mixed bath, for use by both men and women, towels and bathing costumes can be worn. Another unique aspect is that swimming, usually taboo in hot spring culture, is accepted here.


2. Tamago-yu, Takayu Onsen, Fukushima

The smell of sulphur in the area is a good sign of fresh hot spring activity and mineral-rich waters perfect for nurturing the skin. Tamago-yu, literally meaning egg spring, may sound a little off-putting but the bathwater is said to give you slippery smooth skin like that of an egg. The waters here flow 100% direct from the hot spring source, which is the most sought after type of onsen.


▼ Tamago-yu is located inside a picturesque thatch-roofed hut. Filled with natural light during the day and lamplight by night, this hut was built in the Meiji era (1868-1912).


▼ The mixed bath inside the hut is revered for its waters which come direct from the hot spring source. While the water is originally clear, once it comes into contact with the air it takes on a milky appearance.


▼ The design of the hut allows for air to flow freely through the structure, giving you the outdoor experience but with a greater amount of privacy.


3. Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano Prefecture

The hot spring in Jigokudani, literally “hell’s valley”, is famous for being the only place in the world where monkeys can be seen bathing in hot springs. The family of Japanese macaques, commonly known as snow monkeys, draw thousands of tourists to the area every year.



▼ When the monkeys come down to the spring from their homes in the mountains, they feed only on small seeds scattered by workers. Visitors aren’t allowed to feed or touch the wild animals, which means the monkeys run around without even acknowledging the people around them.


▼ Korakukan Ryokan is just across the river from the monkey park. The outdoor spring at the inn is reserved for humans but monkeys often take a dip here too. The entire valley becomes a stunning snowscape in winter.



▼ The Monkey Park and inn can only be accessed by foot. The 30 minute walk from the nearest car park in winter takes you through some gorgeous scenery.


4. Yagen Onsen, Aomori Prefecture

At the northernmost tip of the Japanese mainland lies a hot spring with a 400-year-old history. Easily accessed from the Hotel New Yagen, you can get an indication of the snowfall around here from the height of the snow on the signboard.


▼ The Yagen hot spring is accessed from a long corridor which goes through a national park and winds up at the side of a mountain stream.


▼ While there are other outdoor onsen in the area, this one is popular as it provides some shelter from the cold while also being open to nature. Many visitors commend the fact that the return trip to their rooms is covered, which helps keep the warmth from their soak in their bodies.


5. Magoroku Onsen, Akita Prefecture

Akita’s well-known Nyuto onsen town is famous as a hot spring destination but one of its most beautiful springs is actually a secret, hidden spring known as Magoroku Onsen. Located deep in the mountains, the rustic inn on site offers a series of baths along the river which send out plumes of steam, creating a beautiful atmosphere.


▼ One of the baths inside a small hut is called Ishi no furo, or stone bath, and is said to be great at weather forecasting. If the water is muddy, there will be bad weather and if the water is clear, the weather will be fine.


▼ The hot spring water from utase-yu, cascading hot spring water, is great for soothing sore back muscles.


▼ A quick run from the indoor bath to the outdoor bath is an invigorating experience!


With landscapes and experiences as beautiful as these, we hope you get a chance to step outdoors over the break and brave the winter as it descends itself upon Japan. The best way to fight the chill is with some warmth, and there’s no better place to get it than with a good, long soak in an outdoor tub!

Source: Venture Republic Inc 
Images: Tamagoyu, Hiro san no Ryokou, 210countries, RocketNews24, Mangiare Felice