Japanese paper lantern illuminated

A visit to a spa in Japan is far more than a touristic experience. Formal Japanese bathing culture is centuries old and historical documents note that hot springs, or “onsens”, were used for thousands of years prior. 

Spa culture throughout the country covers both ends of the spectrum. You’ll find at least one luxury spa in Japan’s major cities designed with modern restaurants. Farther away from the metropolises, you’ll encounter traditional onsens with little more than water and wonder, which many consider the best spa in Japan for an authentic experience. 

Some spas are public and unisex, while others feature special areas for men, women, and even private families. As you roam from Nagasaki to Sapporo, find a moment to relax and experience this millennia-old bathing culture at the best spas in Japan. 

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Sky Spa | Yokohama

Sauna at sunrise at Sky Spa, Tokyo

Photo credit: @skyspa_yokohama

Relaxing at a spa in Japan shouldn’t be an inconvenient experience, which is why Sky Spa is perfect for those who want instant gratification. Directly connected to the underground mall at Yokohama Station, Sky Spa features the largest sauna theater in the country. To be fair, this is a Scandinavian-style spa, though it wins top marks in ingenuity for trying to bring the Japanese onsen experience into the city. The cypress calcium carbonate hot spring inside is an artificial system mimicking the Futamata Onsen found in Hokkaido. There’s one in each of the men’s and women’s bathing areas, and both sides also serve up excellent views of the city. 

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Yudanaka and Shibu Onsens | Nagano City

Close up of a snow monkey of Jigokundani in a hot spring

The snow monkeys of Jigokundani are world-famous and a worthy reason to head to Nagano City. While you’ll envy the monkeys warming their snow-soaked fur in the hot springs, know that the Yudanaka and Shibu Onsens are nearby to give you the same wild indulgence. Multiple hot springs surround these historic towns and have drawn visitors for over a millennium. Lower your body into the same hot springs that samurai have. Shibu’s onsens are especially distinct, offering nine separate hot springs with baths dedicated to caring for individual ailments such as skin conditions, injuries, and rheumatism. 

Urban Quar Spa & Living | Nagoya

Nagoya city with skyscrapers

Bring nothing with you into the center of Nagoya and find everything your mind, body and soul needs in Urban Quar Spa & Living. Urban Quar is one of the best spas in Japan for those who want a laid-back experience, almost as if you’re getting comfortable in your very own living room and not a spacious public bath fed from a hot spring 800m below. You’ll find an open-air bath and sauna, not unlike another spa in Japan, though Urban Quar also has unique areas like a high-concentration oxygen bath, a carbonated spring, and a minimally electrified bath. It’s a great family-friendly onsen, too, with a dedicated Manga space boasting 20,000 issues, movies, games, and PCs to play.

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Hōheikyō Hot Spring | Hokkaido

Hōheikyō Hot Spring, Japan

Photo credit: @hoheikyoonsen

Retreat to Hōheikyō Hot Spring in Hokkaido and you’ll find much more than a simple spa in Japan’s Sapporo suburbs. This free-flowing hot spring is ideal for nature lovers who want recreation and relaxation in equal measure. Spend hours embraced in the onsen and unwind with “momiya” massage treatments. When you’re ready, a special lunch awaits in the on-site Indian restaurant. Then, head out into the forest and canoe down the Toyohira River in the summer or snowshoe into the forests where brown bear roam.

Fuji Yurari Hot Spring | Fujinomiya

Mt Fuji Japan

16 different baths, one iconic mountain. Fuji Yurari Hot Spring in Fujinomiya is known as the Sacred Mountain Outdoor Bath, set in full view of Mt. Fuji. No matter if you’re floating in the four-season outdoor panorama bath or stretching out in the indoor Takami bath, the mountain will watch over you. Smaller areas, though hidden from Fuji-san, are still dedicated to your health, such as the Reiho spring water bath. Nanotechnology is used throughout this classic spa in Japan to vibrate the waters, increasing molecular activity and enhancing the effectiveness of these healing hot springs.

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Fuku no Yu | Nagasaki

Lady having massage

While your first instinct is to close your eyes and relax at a spa in Japan, Fuku no Yu asks you to open your eyes and soak in the views of Nagasaki. This onsen has open-air baths overlooking the city, and with full-day passes, you can relax under blue and starlit skies. The family baths, though private and indoors, offer the same great views. Down in the bedrock baths, you’ll find saunas with roryu services, including an incense aroma roryu service that’s worth leaving the city sights behind. 

Explore Japan’s scenery, sights, and spa culture on Luxury Gold’s 11-day Majestic Japan tour. This culturally enriching experience traverses 8 cities across Honshu, Japan’s largest island. You’ll have an opportunity in Oirase to admire the gorge’s waterfalls and enjoy a soothing Onsen bath in this serene forest.