Customer reviews show Japan likes to head north when it heads to the onsen.

There’s a chill in the air now that we’re firmly into autumn, and it’s only going to get chillier for the next several months. Luckily, Japan has some excellent ways to warm yourself up, such as a cup of hot green tea or some time with your legs tucked underneath a kotatsu heater table.

But the absolute best way to spend the colder parts of the year in Japan is by soaking in an onsen, or hot spring. That raises the question, though: Which hot spring should you go to?

To answer that question, travel website Rakuten Travel compiled a list of all its hotels with attached hot spring baths for which at least 100 user reviews from domestic travelers had been posted between September 2021 and August 2022. Each reviewer gave the hotel’s baths a numerical raking, with five points as the maximum, and based on their average scores Rakuten Travel was able to put together a list of the 10 best onsen hotels in Japan.

Let’s take a look at the top three.

3. Hotel Kiso (average review score 4.88)

Hotel Kiso (also pictured at the top of this article) is located in Gunma Prefecture’s Ikaho Onsen area. While there are many onsen inns in the community, Hotel Kiso is a standout thanks to its 11 different baths, five of which are outdoors, and garden-view saunas. The hot spring water is said to be gentle and warming to the core, and it even has a reputation as a kodakara no yu, or a hot spring that will increase a woman’s chances of being blessed with a child if she’s trying to conceive.

2. Tama Onsen (average review score 4.90)

Heading up to Japan’s northeastern Tohoku region, we come to Tama Onsen in Akita Prefecture. In Japan, hot spring bathing is recommended for alleviating a number of physical and mental ailments, and Tama Onsen is so committed to providing therapeutic benefits for guests that they have on-site nursing staff to provide advice about which specific baths to soak in and for how long.

Tama Onsen is known for its strongly acidic hot spring water, but the facility also has baths with milder pH levels, as well as diluted and less intensely hot baths, and the surrounding beauty of Towada Hachimantai National Park, which the hotel is located inside of, is an added bonus.

1. Noji Onsen Hotel (average review score 4.91

Still in Tohoku, but not as far north from Tokyo as Tama Onsen, is Fukushima Prefecture’s Noji Onsen Hotel. The milky white hot spring water here is said to be soft for the touch and also softening for the skin, contributing to its status as one of Tohoku’s best biyu, or beautifying hot springs.

The Noji Onsen hotel has six baths, with its Tengu no Yu, or Tengu Bath, being particularly worthy since it lets you move between an indoor and outdoor section without getting out of the water and shivering in the mountain air. The outdoor bathing sections allow for relaxing contemplation of the brightly colored fall leaves in autumn and snow-viewing bathing in winter.

Rounding out the list’s top 10 hot spring hotels in Japan are:
10. La Vista Kusatsu Hills (Gunma Prefecture)
9. DHC Akazawa Onen Hotel (Shizuoka Prefecture)
8. Arima Grand Hotel (Hyogo Prefecture)
7. Kirishima Hotel (Kagoshima Prefecture)
6. Ginpaso (Hyogo Prefecture)
5. Hyoe Koyokaku (Hyogo Prefecture)
4. Manza Onsen Nisshinkan (Gunma Prefecture)

And if you’re looking to plan your onsen trip to coincide with the fall colors, the forecast for that is right here.

Source: PR Times, Rakuten Travel
Images: Rakuten Travel
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he plans to spend as much time as possible soaking in hot springs if he can’t manage to just hibernate through winter.

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