If you’re stressed out, had a tough week at work, or feel de-motivated, visiting an onsen is the perfect remedy for you. These hot spring baths will help you regain your energy and forget all your stress. In Japan, people have been visiting onsen for hundreds of years to cleanse their bodies and souls.
You may have seen onsen in Japanese anime, drama, and movies — they are usually depicted as steamy public or private baths near mountain springs. Onsens are everywhere in Japan. Some are located within bustling cities, whereas others are relaxation havens in the mountains or on islands. Many onsens are traditional ryokans, which use natural aesthetics. Others are more modern, housed in classy hotels. Popular with locals and foreign visitors alike, onsen may even be one of the reasons why you want to visit Japan.
Before discovering the best resorts in Kobe, it’s essential to learn how to experience onsen the Japanese way:
1. Bring shampoo, body soap, a small towel to use as a washcloth, a larger towel for drying, and a hairband or hair clips (if your hair is long enough for a ponytail). Slippers and hairdryers are usually provided.
2. The male and female bathing areas are typically separate. Men should head to the blue curtain marked with 男 and women to the red curtain marked with 女.
3. Be prepared to undress in front of other people of the same sex in the common changing room. You should undress completely, put your clothes in a basket, and then place the basket on a shelf. Only take your small towel, soap, and hairband to the bathing area.
4. Head to the small wash places along the walls and wash thoroughly (including your hair) before entering the tub. Be careful to avoid splashing soap and water.
5. Once finished washing, tie up your hair, clean the area, and put everything back for the next person to use.
6. After bathing, it is common to drink cold milk — many Japanese people say this is THE best!
7. Be aware that many public baths prohibit tattoos, particularly tattoos that cover a large part of the body. There is usually a “no tattoo” sign near the entrance at these places.
Kobe has some of the most luxurious, famous, and popular onsen in the country. This should come as no surprise since Kobe is one of the most attractive places in Japan, a renowned historic port city, and located close to the mountains.
This charming onsen is close to Sannomiya station in downtown Kobe. It is actually a sento bath, meaning the pools use heated tap water. However, there is one pool filled with real onsen water. Rich in minerals, it has a distinct metallic scent. There is nothing extraordinary about Ninomiya Onsen, but its low price makes it an ideal place to go several times a month — or even multiple times a week. Plus, it also has a salt sauna.
Address: 4-2-18 Ninomiyacho, Chuo Ward, Kobe
Open Hours: 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Price: 450 yen
Although it’s some distance from the city center, Minatoyama Onsen is still easy to reach by public transportation — and it’s certainly worth a visit. The resort has five different onsen pools at different temperatures ranging from 26 degrees Celsius to 46 degrees Celsius. The price is midrange, definitely not too high for what you receive. Plus, it’s one of the few baths that allow people with tattoos to enter.
Address: 26-26-1 Minatoyamacho, Hyogo Ward, Kobe
Open Hours: 5:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. (last entry 10:00 p.m., closed Wednesdays and public holidays)
Price: Adults 680 yen (500 yen between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.), junior high students 430 yen, elementary school students 230 yen (100 yen on weekends), infants enter free
In this small but famous onsen village behind Mount Rokko, there are two natural hot springs called Kin no Yu (meaning Golden Spring) and Gin no Yu (meaning Silver Spring). Their names come from the colored water, which is rich in minerals and has many health benefits, especially for the skin. It’s worth spending a whole day in Arima Onsen, as the town is beautiful. You can even stay overnight in a ryokan with your own private bath.
Address: 833 Arimacho, Kita Ward, Kobe
Open Hours (Kin no Yu): 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (last entry 9:30 p.m., closed second and fourth Tuesday of each month, Wednesday if Tuesday is a holiday, and January 1)
Open Hours (Gin no Yu): 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (last entry 8:30 p.m., closed first and third Tuesday of each month, Wednesday if Tuesday is a holiday, and January 1)
Price (Kin no Yu): 650 yen
Price (Gin no Yu): 550 yen
Price (both): 850 yen
Nestled behind Mount Rokko is one of the oldest onsens in Japan. Although Gekkoen Korokan is outside the metropolitan area, it is easily accessible. In addition to the hot baths, amenities include free-flowing beer and cooking classes.
Address: 318 Arimacho, Kita Ward, Kobe
Open Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Price (lunch included): Adults 3,800 yen, elementary school students 2,300 yen, preschoolers 1,750 yen, infants free
What could be more lovely than lounging in a steamy bath while looking out at the ocean? This modern hotel resort, located by the harbor, combines traditional and contemporary amenities to bring you pure luxury. Your room will have its own terrace with views of the bay. To reach Kobe Minato Onsen Ren, take a five-minute shuttle bus from Sannomiya station.
Address: 1-1 Shinkocho, Chuo Ward, Kobe
Price (for a room): From 16,000 yen
Enjoy a private bath in your room overlooking the beach. Situated on Awaji Island, this onsen resort is surrounded by splendid views of the countryside. The ryokan has Japanese style, Japanese/Western-style, and Western-style suites to suit your preferences.
Address: 970-81 Matsuhokotsuro, Minamiawaji
Price (for a room): From 15,000 yen
If you’re a history buff and would love the chance to pamper yourself in an 800-year-old ryokan, this onsen resort (located just 40 minutes from Kobe Airport) is for you. Feast on delectable Yamaga cuisine from the Kamakura period. Then, plunge into your own private hot spring and allow the warmth to seep into your body and soul. Tocen Goshoboh even provides guests with their own yukata to complete the traditional feel.
Address: 858 Arimacho, Kita Ward, Kobe
Price (stay and spa): 10,200 yen
Just 100 years younger than Tocen Goshoboh, Hyoe Koyokaku has a “golden spring” — its yellow color is due to the iron and salt in the water. You can choose between three public baths or take advantage of the peace and quiet offered by a private bath. This gem of a resort also serves a multi-course Kaiseki menu that is sure to please any tastes. To arrive, it’s just a six-minute walk from Arima Onsen station.
Address: 1904 Arimacho, Kita Ward, Kobe
Open Hours: 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. (5:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. for San-no Yu bath)
Price (for a room): From 29,500 yen
Right by the beach on Awaji Island, and with amenities including a hot spring bath, a spa, table tennis, and billiards, you’ll want to spend more than a day at Ryokan Kaigetsukan. It’s a great place to stay during your time in Kobe, as everything else in the city is easily accessible. This is an onsen you’ll want to make your home away from home.
Address: 1-3-11 Kaigandori, Sumoto
Price (for a room): From 6,500 yen
Foodies who travel for gastronomical experiences will love the sumptuous seafood and wild vegetables served at this onsen. Better yet, you’ll receive a sumptuous spread of food straight to your room. Feast until your heart’s content after a dip in one of the two medicinal hot spring baths.
Address: 1364-1 Arimacho, Kita Ward, Kobe
Price (for a room): From 40,000 yen
Nothing beats staying at a hotel where you have a hot spring, a sauna, delicious seafood, and easy access to all the must-see destinations in the city. Awaji Island Uzushio Onsen Umemaru provides you with all those amenities and more. For instance, you can have a massage, try out Japanese pottery, purchase gifts from the on-site shop or send a postcard to loved ones using the onsen’s postal service.
Address: 1137-9 Arimacho, Anaga, Minamiawaji
Price (for a room): From 34,000 yen
Different onsen resorts cater to different types of guests. For instance, business people can choose onsen with golf courses and high-end facilities, whereas elderly visitors can find ones with special amenities to make their stay more comfortable. Families often enjoy having larger private bathing areas to bathe together. You can also choose between modern baths and traditional medicinal onsen (for their healing qualities). The onsen resorts in Kobe, from the traditional ryokans to the glamorous hotels, provide the exact type of relaxation guests from all walks of life want and need.