Love the unique and quirky? Check out these 3 unusual hot springs in Japan!

  • OITA
  • When in Japan, many people will seek relaxation and relief at the numerous onsens located nationwide especially after a long day of traveling and sightseeing. However, have you become bored with the “norm” where the hot springs either look similar or boast of almost identical health effects? If you are the type who wants to inject a bit of fun and quirkiness during your onsen journey, how about checking these 3 unusual places for an uniquely different experience?

    1. Tsukioka Onsen in Niigata

    Tsukioka Onsen(月岡温泉) which is located in Niigata Prefecture, is slightly over 2 hours away from Tokyo and can be accessed via a paid shuttle bus service from JR Toyosaka Station (豊栄駅). The origin of this onsen was discovered when water started coming out from a well which was initially drilled for the purpose of oil extraction. This subsequently led to the development of the area as a onsen resort town.
    It is especially well known for its emerald green water with a high sulphur content and boasts of being especially effective in making your skin smooth and supple. Depending on the season and weather, the colour of the water may change and even become milky white so it is also referred to the onsen with 7 faces.

    What’s most interesting about Tsukioka Onsen is its claim to be the worst-tasting onsen in Japan. Over at the origin of the onsen is a shrine named Teyu no Mori (手湯の杜) where visitors can taste for themselves whether the onsen lives up to its name. For the adventurous and curious, just take a small plastic cup at the side of the flowing tap to fill it up with the onsen water.

    It is specifically stated on the instructions board that you should not drink this at one go, not drink more than a cup in a day (90ml) and that this is not to be drunk by children below the age of 15. According to those who had tasted this before, the bitter and nauseating taste, thanks to the high sulphur content, lingers in your mouth and tongue for quite a while so you definitely need to be mentally prepared before taking that first sip.

    For more information on transport options to Tsukioka Onsen, you can visit theirOfficial Website.


    2. Nagayu Onsen in Oita Prefecture

    Ever wondered how it would be like to bathe in carbonated soda? Head over to Nagayu Onsen (長湯温泉) in Oita Prefecture’s Naoiri-machi (大分県竹田市直入町) for a similar experience! The onsen here is one of the six in Japan with carbonic acid so after entering it, you will see your body covered with numerous bubbles in the colourless water. Depending on various factors such as water temperature and the minerals contained in the water, there are some onsens here where you won’t see bubbles covering your skin.

    The temperatures of the water here can vary between 24.6 degrees and 52 degrees Celsius so you might want to do some research on the offerings available at individual onsen hotels especially if you are very sensitive to extreme temperatures.

    After all, the onsen experience should leave you feeling refreshed rather than cause you discomfort if the water temperature may be too high or too low for you. Do note that it gets increasingly difficult for carbonic gas to dissolve into water when the temperature gets higher so the carbonic gas concentration is comparatively higher for cooler waters.

    According to a survey conducted by Kao back in 1985, Nagayu Onsen was listed as one of the few onsens in Japan with carbonic acid in their water. As a result, the onsen was widely promoted as the No.1 carbonic acid onsen in the country since 1988 until it was pointed out by the Oita Prefectural Government in August 2006 that there was no basis to this claim in terms of visitor numbers.

    Subsequently, the Onsen Tourism Association did a study on the 6 carbonic acid onsens in Japan which concluded that Nagayu Onsen could continue to claim to be the No.1 among its peers for its consistent water output and comfortable water temperatures even though the carbonic gas concentration level is somewhere in the middle among the 6 onsens. Following this, Nagayu Onsen resumed marketing itself as the No.1 carbonic acid onsen in Japan from 7 Dec 2007.

    Nagayu Onsen Official Website*Japanese Only

    3. Toyotomi Onsen in Hokkaido

    At first sight, you might wonder who in the right mind would want to take a bath in the black and oily onsen water here at Toyotomi Onsen (豊富温泉). It just doesn’t sound like you will emerge squeaky clean after soaking in this onsen but there is more than meets the eye.

    Toyotomi Onsen which is located in Toyotomi-cho, Hokkaido (北海道天塩郡豊富町), was created back in May 1926 when underground water of 43 degrees Celsius started spewing out with natural gas from about 960m underground following oil excavation works in the prior year. By the time it got to 1927, the locals started creating straw huts to make use of these hot springs which later led to the development of 8 onsen inns that formed the resort area.

    As the onsen water source contains oil, you can see an oil film on the surface of the water and the smell of petroleum is hard to ignore. Despite so, the water actually does not stick to your skin and is surprisingly said to have a great moisturising effect. It is also reputed to be very effective for skin diseases thus attracting many visitors from afar. You might have to get over your initial jitters over this onsen’s appearance and smell before you can truly enjoy the benefits it has to offer so this is definitely not for the faint-hearted!

    Compared to the two onsens featured above, heading to Toyotomi is not easy because it is located in northern Hokkaido where the nearest airport is at Wakkanai and flights to here are relatively few as compared to Shin Chitose Airport which is at least a 5 hours’ train ride and another one-hour bus ride away.

    From Wakkanai Airport you will need to take a bus for 30 minutes to JR Wakkanai Station before switching to a train for another 45 minutes to get to JR Toyotomi Station and another 10 minutes on the coastal bus. Alternatively, you can take a rental car and head straight to the onsen area in just 60 minutes. Despite the time and effort needed to get here, there must be something which is so attractive about Toyotomi Onsen that you can only find out when you get here.

    Toyotomi Onsen Official Website *Japanese Only


    Having read all about these three unusual onsens, how about making some plans to check them out for yourselves and inject some fun into your onsen journey? Have a relaxing and enjoyable time there!

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