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Japan's Top Hot Springs

Japanese hot springs

Japan’s thousands of onsen, or hot springs, have been used to treat everything from skin conditions to sleep disorders since the days of the samurai. Here, four worth the trip from Tokyo.

The Original: According to lore, a Buddhist monk discovered the hot springs of Yamanaka, on the western coast of Honshu island, some 1,300 years ago. Take a dip in the privacy of the secluded Kayotei, then stay for an organic kaiseki meal with locally foraged bamboo shoots and soba noodles with grated daikon.

The Pastoral: Located at the foot of Mount Amagi, Yugashima has jaw-dropping scenery and rustic baths. The Yumotokan onsensits in a gorge along the Kano River. Post-dip, walk through the primeval cedar forest to Jōren no taki, an 82-foot-high waterfall.

The Seaside: The Shirahama coastline is lined with unusual rock formations, but the real showstopper is the Sakinoyu onsen (81-739/42-3016), where open-air baths are carved into boulders fronting the Pacific. Once a retreat for the imperial family, it’s open to all for a nominal fee.

The Village: Kurokawa, in Kumamoto Prefecture, is one of Japan’s iconic hot-springs towns—there are more than 30 ryokan clustered in one sleepy hamlet; people wander the streets in robes. Don’t miss the private pools at Okyakuya and Shinmeikan, which has baths located in caves.

Photo by Dylan + Jeni

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