Hokkaido can boast one of Japan’s top onsen (hot springs) destinations. There are over 500 onsen facilities, and nearly every towns has at least one onsen. You are spoiled for choice from local sento (public baths) to roten-buro (open-air baths). A diversity of onsen can cure a range of maladies and you will emerge with beauty skin.
TYPES OF ONSEN & SENTO
Many onsen hotels, ryokan and minshuku are open for higaeri nyuyoku (day-use entry) from ¥500 to ¥1500 per person. If you are looking for the facilities of day-use entry, ‘Higaeri nyuyoku wa dekimasuka? (日帰り入浴はできますか?)’ is the most useful phrase any onsen accommodation.
Public Baths & Sento
公衆浴場 · 銭湯
You will find reasonably public baths or sento (銭湯: small bathhouses: also called koshu yokujo) in many cities and onsen towns. Commonly large-scale public baths (often called super sento) have soap, shampoo, rental (or selling) towels, deposit lockers, resting rooms and eateries. But small sento don’t have amenities and lockers, bring your own soap and towel. Pay attention to your valuables. Basic admission runs ¥450. There are many sento-style onsen in Hokkaido. For local sento, see www.kita-no-sento.com (in Japanese).
Roten-buro (Open-air Bath)
A number of onsen hotels, ryokan and large-scale public baths have attractive roten-buro (open-air bath). Rural onsen has good views of ocean, river, mountain, forest or cityscape.
Konyoku (mixed-gender bathing)
Konyoku (mixed-gender bathing) is the most unique bathing experience. Commonly women (and men) are allowed (or need) to take modesty towels or bathing suit (ask for staff). Rental is available for use. Most accommodation offer female-only (josei-senyo) bathing time. Otherwise, you can wear a swimsuit at the unstaffed konyoku roten-buro. Try it on a case-by-case basis.
If you don’t soak, there are free ashi-yu (footbath) in major onsen towns. Bring your own towel for wiping feet.
Kazoku-buro & Kashikiri-buro
家族風呂 · 貸切風呂
Both kazoku-buro (family bath) and kashikiri-buro (private bath) are recommended for family, couple and tattooed people. Some sento and onsen accommodation have these private baths. Admission runs from around ¥2000 per group or free of charge at the accommodation. Grand luxury accommodation have private indoor or open-air baths in the guest rooms.
ETIQUETTE & MANNERS
Don’t wear a swimsuit or a large towel in the baths (except most konyoku).
Wash your body in a washing area or pouring hot water over your body (kake-yu) before entering the bathtub.
Don’t dip your towel in the bathtub. People put small towels on their heads.
Tattoo is not allowed at the most onsen and sento. Head to kazoku-buro or kashikiri-buro is a not bad idea.
HOKKAIDO ONSEN MAP
BEST ONSEN FOR…
ONSEN COMPLEX Noboribetsu Daiichi Takimotokan has a variety of bathtubs plus seven different kinds of hot water overlooking Jigoku-dani (hell valley).
ROTEN-BURO Tokachidake Onsen offers excellent roten-buro with mountain views. Head to the Hakugin-so, Fukiage Roten-no-yu or Ryounkaku.
ONSEN THERAPY Toyotomi Onsen offer weekly and monthly rates for serious toji (onsen therapy).