Ultimate Guide to Japanese Private Onsen

By Emily Talbot, Joshua Matsuda | April 6, 2023

Want to unwind in some of Japan’s natural hot springs, but don’t feel comfortable bathing with others or worry your tattoo might prevent you from getting in? Perhaps you simply want some quality time to relax with your family, friends, partner, or loved ones. 

Whatever your motivation, if you’re after an authentic Japanese bathing experience away from the crowd, we recommend Japanese private onsen (温泉). Peaceful and serene, they provide the perfect atmosphere for a romantic getaway, family bonding, or just a hard-earned break.

Unsure where to find private onsen or how to navigate onsen etiquette? I’ll recommend some top private onsen places to help you find a fit for your budget and timeframe. So you can make the most of your Japanese private onsen retreat, I’ll share some top tips on how to use onsen respectfully and what to expect at an onsen ryokan (Japanese hot spring inn)!

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    What exactly is onsen and how is it different from sentō?

    japanese private onsen

    Onsen - literally on (hot) and sen (springs), have long been a source of healing for Japanese people. Onsen remains integral to Japanese culture, and there are a whopping 3,000 onsen facilities in Japan that attract tens of thousands of visitors every year.

    Firstly, what do we mean when we say onsen? Onsen is used to refer to the hot springs themselves, as well as the bathing facilities surrounding them.

    In spite of the growing popularity of onsen facilities, onsen has been around for centuries. There are century-old accounts of Japanese women and men sharing baths to absorb the water’s healing properties. In addition, onsen water is known to revitalize skin, increase blood flow, and loosen tense muscles. We could all use a bit of that these days!

    Sentō - are original public bathhouses that have been around for centuries. Sentō are also integral to Japanese culture. However, they are slowly going out of business. In Japan, there is an estimated 600-700 sentō left. This is due to the normalization of having a bath in your home.

    Despite the downfall of Sentō, they do offer a couple more things than their house bath counterpart. They offer a sense of community and relaxation.

    Also, going to a public bathhouse or sentō allows the community of the people in the area to enjoy a bath together. There is a sense of sukinnshippu (skinship) that can only be achieved in public bathhouses. Sentō also usually has access to massage chairs and vending machines for relaxation after taking a bath.



    Natural or man-made?

    Natural Man-made

    Onsen (温泉) are natural pools filled with volcanic spring water. The water, known for its milky appearance and sulphuric smell, is very good for the skin. Interestingly, not all natural springs are considered onsen. “Onsen laws” stipulate that the water has to be at least 25 degrees, or fulfill at least one of 19 criteria relating to the concentration of the water’s mineral content.

    Sentō (銭湯) on the other hand, are man-made pools of heated tap water. Some sentō facilities add minerals and infusions to the water for increased health benefits, but they are certainly not known for that. 

    Where are they usually located?

    Near volcanic mountains Town centers

    Because they are heated by volcanoes, onsens are mostly located in and around volcanic areas. Many sit at quite an altitude that provides bathers with a beautiful view of the outstretched landscape, or cityscape, below.

    Sentō are mostly located near town centers, are typically cheaper, and are more popular among local people.

    What are they primarily for?

    Relaxation Hygiene & cleanliness

    Japan’s oldest chronicle- the kogiji- suggests that feudal lords had their favorite soaking spots, where they often let samurai (warriors) bathe after battles. Bathing in onsen was thought to heal people’s bodies and offer numerous health benefits. 

    Sentō, like other public baths, serves the much more simple purpose of keeping people clean.

    Famous Locations

    Kusatsu Onsen (Gunma): Voted as the #1 onsen for two consecutive years by Japanese travel companies, Kusatsu is definitely a worthy visit. Sourcing their onsen water from Mount Kusatsu-shirane, they produce the most naturally flowing onsen water with over 32,300 liters per minute!

    Beppu Onsen (Oita): In Beppu City, there are hundreds of onsens available for you to visit. With over 10 different types of hot springs, Beppu also has the highest amount of hot spring locations!

    Fukunoyu (Tokyo): After renovation and reopening in 2011, Fukunoyu has a retro vibe for its baths. This sentō holds different types of baths and has numerous paintings on the walls of their baths. The men's and women's baths alternate, so there are different experiences to look forward to!

    Spa Laqua (Tokyo): A hot spring complex, Spa Laqua has 2 different types of “zones” available. The Spa Zone has numerous types of hot spring baths and The Healing Baden Zone has numerous saunas available!

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    Why should I use a Japanese private onsen instead of a public onsen?

    You’re with a close companion

    Most onsen today are segregated by gender, meaning couples cannot bathe together. However, Japanese private onsen offers you and your loved one a highly luxurious and romantic bathing experience, often complete with spectacular views.

    Ryokan (Japanese hot spring inns) usually offer two options for private bathing: guest rooms with private onsen attached, and/or their chartered kashikiri (貸切風呂) baths, where couples can enjoy up to two hours of private bathing.  

    Rotenburo (open-air onsen) is particularly popular among honeymooners and young lovers seeking romantic views. A rotenburo is usually attached to a beautifully furnished bedroom and hidden from the public eye. With this total privacy, you can do whatever, whenever you please, all while gazing out at some of Japan’s finest nature.

    Looking for a lover to share your next onsen getaway with? Read the Ultimate Guide to Japanese Dating Apps and Ultimate Guide to (dating) Japanese Men

    You’ve got tattoos

    Tattoos- both big and small- are taboo in Japan due to their association with yakuza (Japanese gangsters) and criminals. Because of this, many traditional ryokan enforce a blanket no-tattoo policy for their public onsen. There are some exceptions, of course, but the policy of places liberalizing their rules to accommodate tourists is not the normal standard as of yet. 

    Before visiting a ryokan, it is a good idea to research the requirements in advance to avoid any awkwardness or misunderstanding. Some places will accept smaller tattoos (most likely if they are covered). 

    As tattoos are being normalized in the West, however, ryokans are slowly and surely starting to allow tattoos in their establishments. More ryokans are allowing smaller tattoos to be covered with a bandage or tattoo patch. Some establishments are also reported to allow “fashion tattoos” to be an exception to the rule. 

    If you’ve got a tattoo, I would recommend booking to visit an onsen facility with a kashikiri (貸し切り), a reservable Japanese private onsen. No one will be able to see that you have a tattoo behind the locked door. 

    If you have any questions or are still curious about tattoo culture in Japan, read more in our article: Ultimate Guide to Getting a Tattoo in Japan!

    foreigner with tattoos in private onsen in japan

    You’re with family

    Family travel can be stressful at the best of times, whether you're a party of three, five, or seven. However, booking a Japanese private onsen is the best way to truly relax, as you and your family can bathe together regardless of gender in a safe and secure space. Having the peace of mind that comes with this will allow you to fully enjoy the surroundings and cultural experience. If you prefer to soak separately, you can do so, provided that your children are above seven years old.

    Onsen ryokan (traditional Japanese hotels) generally offer two types of family onsen- chartered onsens outside guest rooms, and Japanese private onsen in guest rooms. Most ryokan will have either or both options available, with pools inside and/or outside. In addition, a kazokuburo (家族風呂) consists of multiple private rooms, with a bath and changing area. These are great for families with young kids. 

    What about accommodation?

    Onsen facilities also have spacious rooms that can comfortably sleep up to seven people. You probably aren’t used to sleeping in the same room- it is an experience you can only find in Japan! Always make sure to check room capacity with your ryokan, as some ryokan only offer private rooms and onsens for couples. Keep in mind, children over 12 are charged adult rates, while infants and children between 6 and 11 are charged reduced rates.

    What about food?

    Ryokan staff understand that juggling children at mealtimes can be tricky. That’s why some give you the option to dine inside your heya-shoku (guest room) instead of at the restaurant. Your children will likely be sleepy around dinnertime, so dining in your room allows you to eat at your own pace and send your children to bed hassle-free.

    You’re shy

    All visitors are expected to bathe naked in both the standard single-sex baths and konyoku (shared-gender baths). Despite the fact that nudity is considered beautiful and natural in Japan, stripping off can be daunting for even the best of us. 

    Since it is forbidden to bring anything other than your naked body into an onsen, those on the shier side are best to choose a private onsen for the most comfortable experience. Japanese private onsen gives you the privacy to totally unwind and embrace your nakedness away from the crowd. 

    You’re on your period

    Did you ever wonder what are the rules when entering an onsen while you are on your period? The answer is, there is no rule stating whether you can enter an onsen on your period. Some onsens may specify whether they will allow women to enter while on their period, but many still do not state whether it is okay or not.

    This debate has been and is still going on to this day. A 2017 survey by MyNavi asked 176 women whether it is acceptable to use an onsen while they are on their period. 73.3% of participants answered it is not acceptable. The reasoning behind this was mainly due to hygiene and consideration for others.

    While there is a grey line between whether it is right or wrong, it is not recommended. All things considered, for the person with the period, there is a higher chance of being dizzy or nauseous from the loss of blood. In addition, there also is a higher chance of infection to occur.

    Next time you visit an onsen while on your period, consider the trade-offs of whether you should go in. If there is no rule, it is up to the individual to decide.

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    How can I enjoy Japanese private onsen?

    First things first. How much time and money are you willing to spend? Once that’s decided, narrowing down your options will become a bit easier. 

    Stay a few nights at an onsen ryokan with a Japanese private onsen

    If you have the luxury of time, why not treat yourself to a night or two at a remote ryokan? In any case it was not clear, not all ryokan have onsen. Ryokan are traditional Japanese inns, while onsen ryokan, as the term suggests, are inns with onsen. They have their own onsen baths and usually provide breakfast and dinner for staying guests. 

    Ryokan tend to be located in regional areas near volcanic activity, surrounded by mountains, lakes, and other beautiful Japanese scenery. Often catering only for a limited number of staying guests, they offer a quiet and private feel. The atmosphere is deeply rejuvenating and undoubtedly romantic.

    For example in Nikko, there are numerous different activities for you to enjoy. For example, you can visit Toshogu Shrine, which is arguably the most decorated shrine in Japan. Next, you can enjoy the view at Ryuzu Waterfall, which is a beautiful double waterfall. Also, you can also taste some of their famous deep-fried yuba, which is something that I personally recommend eating while you are there! In addition, the ryokans and onsens there is an added bonus to the beautiful scenery there!


    Before soaking in a nice hot bath, you need to do some sightseeing. Read our Ultimate Guide to Amusement Parks in Tokyo and Ultimate Guide to Shirnes and Temples in Tokyo!

    Take a day trip to a ryokan with a Japanese private onsen

    When you only have a day and under ¥5,000 to spend on an authentic Japanese bathing experience, a day trip (日帰り, higaeri) fits the bill! Although, it’s important to note that not all ryokan accept day-trippers, so be sure to check their website carefully beforehand.

    Ryokan which does accept daytrippers tends to offer similar facilities and services to overnight guests- such as massages and open pool access. For example, hotels such as Amami Onsen Nanten-en do special day trip deals where guests can use a room and the attached Japanese private onsen for 7 hours! Extra services such as massages and spa treatments usually cost extra for daytrippers and stayers alike. However, pricing packages differ between ryokan.

    Higaeri bathing hours tend to be restricted, and in some places, some onsen are reserved for overnight guests. For example, for food, onsen ryokan may also not offer daytrippers restaurant meals, so be sure to check your price package and whether the ryokan’s food facilities are open to all visitors.

    Are you currently in Tokyo and want to explore? Read our Ultimate Guide to Planning a Day Trip from Tokyo. 

    What exactly can I expect to find at an onsen ryokan?

    An onsen ryokan is, you guessed it, a ryokan (Japanese-style hotel) with an onsen (hot spring inn). As well as indoor and outdoor pools, virtually all ryokan have washitsu (traditional Japanese rooms) for overnight guests and dining rooms that serve them breakfast and dinner.

    For example, in some ryokan, there are lounge areas, massage parlors, saunas, souvenir shops,  scenic gardens, and even hair salons.

    What does a Japanese private onsen look like? 

    Private onsen come in different sizes. The smallest pools, suitable for one person, are slightly wider, and larger than a bathtub. Compared to couples onsen are about three times the size of a standard bathtub, with the largest family onsen comfortably fitting up to seven people.  

    There are in-room and out-of-room private onsen. In-room private onsen are either located indoors or on a balcony connected to the guest room. In addition, some ryokans let you choose your onsen theme! For example, Kinugawa Spa Nanaeyae lets you choose between a white-themed space surrounded by sunlit foliage, or a darker space with a Canyon feel! 

    Bathing areas are skillfully designed to blend in with the surrounding natural features using materials such as bamboo, china, and porcelain. In such an immersive and elegant space, it’s hard not to feel blissfully peaceful.

    Japanese private onsen ryokan japanese room

    What is in a typical onsen ryokan room? 

    It depends, guests can choose between a relatively nondescript Western-style bedroom with mattresses and bedsheets, or the quintessential Japanese-style room (和室, washitsu). 

    A traditional feature of the Japanese ryokan, washitsu showcases some of Japan’s finest traditional architecture in all its aesthetically pleasing elegance and simplicity. The rooms’ open, wooden architectural style provides lots of natural light and ventilation, evoking a sense of harmony between people and nature. 

    Washitsu are lined with tatami (bamboo mat flooring) which smells and feels somewhat like grass. When dinnertime rolls around, staff prepare the bedding by placing the Japanese futon (thin floor mattress and sheet) atop the tatami to make an on-the-floor bed. In your washitsu, you might also find low-lying tables, teapots, teacups, and cushions for sitting on the floor. Also, you might see sliding doors of shoji (Japanese paper) and corner areas with ikebana flower arrangements and tokonoma (hanging scrolls).

    Do Japanese private onsen guests get their own bathrooms? 

    Most private guest rooms have an ensuite bathroom equipped with a washing area and a yukata (Japanese bathrobe) for wearing in and around the resort area. For example, basic amenities such as shampoo, body lotion, a hairdryer, toothbrushes, and towels are provided. Also, some may provide bathroom slippers and additional amenities.

    If you are day-tripping, some ryokan may require you to rent certain amenities for an extra charge. 

    What food and drink will I be served at an onsen ryokan?

    Arguably the highlight of spending the night at an onsen ryokan (hot spring inn) is the Japanese food. You can usually confirm your desired meal plan and dinner time at check-in. For an additional fee, you may be able to request to eat in a private room rather than the main restaurant.

    Breakfasts and dinners feature an array of aesthetic dishes created using high-quality and fresh ingredients. There’s something for everyone- seafood, meat, vegetables, and fruits. Also, higher-end ryokan provides kaiseki (multi-course Japanese meals), and teppanyaki (grilled foods). For example, you may see sashimi (fresh fish slabs), sukiyaki (meat and vegetables marinated in soy, sugar, and mirin), and miso soup (a famous Japanese soup).

    Because Japanese cuisine utilizes seasonal ingredients, menus are frequently changing. For example, broth may be cold during summer like somen (cold noodles) or broth may be hot during winter like udon (wheat flour noodles). Menus usually feature one or two Western-style meals for the less adventurous, but we recommend you try Japanese cuisine- you won’t regret it! Overall, ryokan food is highly nutritious and locally sourced from organic farms, so you can try anything on offer without worrying about getting sick.

    Also, if you’re lucky, the ryokan staff might also give you some local sweet treats to nibble at during your stay. Some even have sweets shops where you can purchase the ones you liked for your loved ones back home. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Japanese Sweets to see the kind of treats you might get!

    traditional japanese breakfast meal in onsen ryokan

    What about massages and beauty treatments?

    Many ryokan provide special salons and “beautification” services for female guests, such as Geisha facials, massages, and other skin treatments. Some ryokan also offers fish pedicures and has a sauna available for everyone to use. Check out your ryokan’s website or ask reception to see exactly what they offer!

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    Top 8 ryokan with Japanese private onsen, from cheapest to most expensive

    Ebisu no Yu, Beppu

    Location: Beppu, Oita Prefecture
    Day-trip policy: Day trippers allowed
    Private onsen: Rooms with open-air onsen, chartered onsen outside guest rooms
    Facilities: Healing roams, bar, shop, restaurant, meeting facilities, spa, karaoke
    Price: Ranges from ¥15,000~¥35,000 for 2 adults, 1 night

    First, Beppu, one of the best towns to experience onsen, is home to ryokan Ebisu no Yu. Lying at the heart of Shuzenji / Nagaoka, it is ideally located for anyone eager to see the sites of Atami, a seaside town close by. As a daytripper or overnight guest, you can rent a private onsen room. Some of their rooms have beds, which is perfect for those who want to sleep on one. The pools here are incredibly milky and sulphuric and are thought to have skin-smoothing properties. When you’re done soaking, the ryokan has karaoke, a massage parlor, and a golf course. Don’t forget their bar and restaurant after you enjoyed their activities.

    Amami Onsen Nanten-en, Osaka

    Location: Kawachinagano, Osaka Prefecture
    Day-trip policy: Day trippers allowed
    Private onsen: Rooms with open-air onsen, chartered onsen outside guest rooms
    Onsen options: Rooms with open-air and indoor onsen. Chartered onsen outside guest rooms.
    Price: Ranges from ¥28,600~¥44,800 for 1 night, 2 people. ¥24,000 for the daytripper deal, 2 people

    Second, Amami Onsen Nanten-en is a beautifully designed building by Tatsuno Kingo, a renowned architect during the Meiji and Taisho Periods (1868-1926). Located 40 minutes from Osaka by train and a 2-minute walk from the station, the ryokan is the perfect destination for a day trip as well as an overnight stay. From your private onsen, you might be lucky enough to get views of the garden and river below. Their traditional Japanese rooms with a view of their zen garden are a highlight of the room. Also, remember to check out their restaurants with amazing courses and can’t forget the omiyage (tradition to bring back souvenirs) at their souvenir shops as well!

    japanese private onsen in shiga prefecture

    Bousui, Shizuoka

    Location: Kamo, Shizuoka
    Day-trip policy: No day-trippers allowed
    Private onsen: Chartered onsen outside guest rooms.
    Facilities: Restaurants, spas, lounge, free shuttle
    Price: Ranges from ¥31,350~¥52,250 for 2 adults, 1 night

    Third, at Bousui, you can marvel at the spectacular ocean views from your private onsen one minute, and walk along Suruga Bay below the next. This 4-star ryokan sits on a low-lying building within walking distance from the sea. With its prime location, stunning furnishings, and in-room meal service, it is well worth its price tag. The view of the ocean from their traditional Japanese rooms is a definite bucket list place to stay at!

    Getting there is easy with the ryokan’s free parking and free train station shuttle bus. Instead of in-room onsen, they offer the option to rent a private onsen area for up to 2 sessions per night stayed for up to 50 minutes with a remarkable outstretched sea view.

    Yunoshimakan, Gero 

    Location: Gero, Gifu Prefecture
    Day-trip policy: No day-trippers allowed
    Private onsen: Rooms with open-air and indoor onsen, chartered onsen outside guest rooms.
    Facilities: Restaurant, lounge, free shuttle
    Price: Ranges from ¥35,530~¥63,100 for 2 adults, 1 night

    Fourth, one of the three most famous onsens in Japan, this cozy, three-storied wooden ryokan sits nestled up high in the mountains. Open-air baths attached to washitsu boast a beautiful view of Gero Onsen’s townscape, as do other private baths which you can pay for by the hour. Being surrounded by the forest, the view from their cozy rooms is a sight to behold. Wanting to dine privately? The ryokan staff will bring authentic kaiseki right to your room at the end of a relaxing day. There are 67 rooms and many private room options. Tattoos are okay at this establishment for the private onsen. 

    Biwako Hanakaido, Ōtsu 

    Location: Ōtsu, Shiga Prefecture
    Day-trip policy: Day trippers allowed
    Private onsen: Guest rooms with open-air onsen
    Facilities: Souvenir shop, cafe, spa, restaurant, lounge, free shuttle
    Price: Ranges from ¥40,000~¥60,000 for 2 adults, 1 night

    Next, only a 20-minute train ride from Kyoto station and offering free pick-up, Biwako Ryokusuitei overlooks the spectacular freshwater Lake Biwa. The view from their traditional Japanese rooms calls for stargazing and relaxation to the max! After a delicious kaiseki dinner, delightful massage, and lengthy rest in the lounge, you can retire to your open-air onsen and let the lake’s light breeze send you into a state of total relaxation. You can also enjoy different activities ranging from The Garden Museum Hiei, Shirahige Jinja Shrine, and more!

    Kurashiki, Honmachi

    Location: Honmachi, Okayama Prefecture
    Day-trip policy: Day trippers allowed
    Private onsen: Rooms with open-air and indoor onsen. Chartered onsen outside guest rooms.
    Facilities: Restaurant, private dining, lounge
    Price: Ranges From ¥60,000100,000 for 2 adults, 1 night

    Then, enjoy the banks of the Nakabashi Bridge canal at Ryokan Kurashiki. As an overnight guest, you can choose from their standard, deluxe, and luxury suites, all of which come with their own onsen. They have both beds and futons available, the architecture also has a modern Japanese twist. If you feel like using a large pool, you can. There is a large bath open to all accommodation guests, which you can book in advance by the hour if you’re just wanting to visit for the day.

    expensive japanese private onsen in shizuoka

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    Nishimuraya Honkan, Hyogo

    Location: Kamo, Shizuoka
    Day-trip policy: No day-trippers allowed
    Private onsen: Rooms with open-air and indoor onsen, chartered onsen outside guest rooms.
    Facilities: In-room dining, lounge, garden, restaurant, shop
    Price: Ranges from ¥60,000130,446 for 2 adults, 1 night

    Coming up, this pricey, award-winning onsen ryokan located in rural Hyogo could not go without a mention. According to Lonely Planet, Nishimuraya Honkan is the best onsen ryokan in Japan! Despite the illusion of seclusion, it’s only 4 minutes away from Yosho Shrine and 12 minutes from the nearest train station. Their rooms are very spacious and provide that classic Japanese traditional feel from back in the day. You’ll love its unparalleled hospitality, dining experience, and Zen gardens.

    Kyoto Yunohana, Kameoka

    Location: Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture
    Day-trip policy: No day-trippers allowed
    Private onsen: Rooms with open-air and indoor onsen, chartered onsen outside guest rooms
    Facilities: Restaurant, lobby, spa
    Price: Ranges from ¥75,000~¥100,000 for 2 adults, 1 night. 

    Finally, although it is only a 40-minute train or bus ride away from Kyoto, Yunohana is well hidden by the thick forest on the Hokusetsu Mountains. One of the more flexible ryokan with several private onsen room options, Yunohana is a popular choice for families. They have both rooms with beds and futons, which is perfect for people who want to sleep on a bed. Tattoo-wearers can also enjoy their public pools, provided they cover the ink with adhesive tape. Their garden is breathtaking as you are able to soak in the onsen and enjoy the view. On-the-day reservations are accepted where there are vacancies, and you can easily tailor your meal plan to suit your budget.

    Best 5 ryokan near Tokyo with Japanese private onsen 

    Shin Kaikatei Izumi (2.5h from Tokyo)

    Location: Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture
    Day-trip policy: Day trippers allowed
    Private onsen: Most rooms have open-air onsen. Chartered onsen outside guest rooms
    Facilities: Bar, shop
    Price: Ranges from ¥16,000~¥32,000 for 1 night, 2 people. ¥12,000 for the daytripper deal, 2 people

    First, Shin Kaikatei Izumi is seated on the west side of Shizuoka’s Izu Peninsula, offering modern and traditional-style rooms with stunning views of Suruga Bay. Their rooms feature numerous paper Japanese lamps that give off a comforting and romantic vibe. There are 8 different room types to choose from, with all but the cheapest boasting their own open-air onsen. For an out-of-this-world dining experience, head to their restaurant. Their head chef has received several Michelin Stars!

    Tokinoyu Setsugetsuka (2.5h from Tokyo)

    Location: Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture
    Day-trip policy: Day trippers allowed
    Private onsen: Rooms with open-air and indoor onsen. Chartered onsen outside guest rooms.
    Facilities: Restaurants, souvenir shop, lounge, vending machines
    Price: Ranges from ¥27,192~¥38,000 for 1 night, 2 people. ¥14,000 for the daytripper deal, 2 people

    Second, set in the heart of the hot spring resort Hakone, Tokinoyu Setsugetsuka offers a remote feel with the convenience of being close to Tokyo! Their rooms have beds but also have that traditional feel to them considering being in Tokyo. For a set price, you have a seven-hour window to soak in the wooden onsen on your room’s balcony or rent 40-minute slots in any public or private pool. For dinner, choose from one of two restaurants- Kacho or Fugetsu. Restaurant Kacho serves Japanese kaiseki multi-course meals consisting of locally acquired seafood, while Fugetsu offers sushi, tempura, and wagyu beef shabu-shabu hot pot dishes.

    japanese private onsen in yamanashi

    Konansou (2.5h from Tokyo)

    Location: Minamitsuru, Yamanashi Prefecture
    Day-trip policy: No day trippers
    Private onsen: Rooms with open-air onsen, private chartered onsen outside guest rooms.
    Facilities: Souvenir shop, restaurant, lounge, vending, and washing machines
    Price: Ranges from ¥35,920~¥51,744 per night for 2 people

    Third, a 10-minute walk from the nearest train station, Konansou sits near the shore of Lake Kawaguchi, offering beautiful views of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi. The ryokan offers beach access, as well as proximity to the town’s restaurants and gift shops. It has 51 guest rooms, of which some face the lake and some face Mount Fuji. They have both beds and futons available, where you can wake up with a spectacular view of Mount Fuji. As well as their large public baths, they also have a rooftop foot bath that gives you unparalleled views of the surroundings!

    Want to break out of the ryokan bubble? Check out the Oshino Hakkai area or the Arakura Fuji Sengen Jinja Shrine nearby.


    Do you want more things to do in Tokyo or don’t know what to do for the weekend? Read our Top 20 Things to Do in Shibuya and Ultimate Guide to Annual Events in Tokyo!

    Tokinoniwa (3.5h from Tokyo)


    Location: Kusatsu Onsen, Gunma Prefecture
    Day-trip policy: Day trippers allowed
    Private onsen: All rooms have open-air onsen, chartered onsen outside guest rooms
    Facilities: Bar, shop, restaurant
    Price: Ranges from ¥46,000~¥68,204 for 1 night, 2 people. ¥28,000 daytripper plan for 2 people

    Next, with its tatami-matted floors and prime onsen town location, Tokinoniwa ryokan offers the quintessential onsen experience. Day-trippers can use a room with a private open-air onsen between 12 pm and 3 pm. There are also 3 kashikiri (rentable private onsen) that you can use at no extra cost. For overnight guests, most of the ryokan’s 64 guest rooms are washitsu (traditional Japanese-style rooms) equipped with their own open-air onsen baths. For food, they serve Japanese kaiseki-style meals and plenty of sake and their sake bar.

    Kukuna (2.5h from Tokyo)

    Location: Minamitsuru, Yamanashi Prefecture
    Day-trip policy: No day trippers allowed
    Onsen: Rooms with open-air onsen. Private chartered onsen outside guest rooms
    Facilities: Restaurant, banquet rooms, gift shop, karaoke, meeting, and games rooms
    Price: Ranges from ¥49,000~¥55,000 per night for 2 people

    Finally, pick Kukuna to admire exquisite views of Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi from the comfort of your private onsen. In spring, sakura (cherry blossoms) beautifies the view from the ryokan lounge and balconies. At the end of a long day of soaking, you can choose from a number of dining options, including teppanyaki and kaiseki, and try to beat your loved one at karaoke! Also, their rooms have beds and have more of a resort feel than your typical traditional ryokan, it is a very unique experience for a ryokan.

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    Important vocabulary for Japanese private onsen






    natural hot spring



    communal bath



    Japanese-style inn



    private bath



    outdoor bath



    Japanese multi-course dinner



    Japanese-style bedroom












    body soap



    day trip









    Japanese bed on the ground

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    How to use Japanese private onsen like a pro in 8 steps

    1. Check your onsen ryokan’s policies

    First, onsen bathing rules vary from ryokan to ryokan. No matter how much you already know about onsen, always check your ryokan's website or contact them via email or phone to resolve any questions before booking or even prior to arrival.

    Nervous about conversing in Japanese over the phone? The Ultimate Guide To Useful Japanese Phrases will help you make a call with confidence.

    2. Book in advance

    Second, payment and reservation methods for private onsen also vary. I recommend all first-time onsen users book in advance to minimize the chances of being turned away due to unexpected capacity or policy issues. Bookings can usually be done on the ryokan website. 

    Also, some facilities accept on-the-day reservations and have small touchscreen monitors that let you select the onsen with the picture and price that appeals to you most. However, for the best experience, you want to walk into the ryokan relaxed, knowing all the details are taken care of.

    Looking to use a chartered onsen? These pay-per-minute baths usually have slots from a minimum of 45-50 minutes for a price of around ¥2000 - ¥4000.

    tourist booking reservation for private onsen

    3. Be prompt

    Third, lateness is considered rude in Japan. If you are delayed and cannot make your reservations in time, call your ryokan to notify them. Their contact information is usually included in the email confirming your reservation, and check-in for overnight stays is usually between 3 pm and 6 pm.

    If you’re staying the night, be sure to let your establishment know your movements so that they do not over or under-order ingredients for meals. In addition, be seated around five minutes before mealtime to indicate you are ready to be served. 

    4. Dress (and undress) appropriately

    Next, so you’ve finally arrived at the ryokan, eager to get your onsen experience underway. However, before going in, remove your shoes. It is customary for them to be taken off at the building’s entrance (玄関, genkan) and placed either on the floor, genkan shelves, or lockers.

    Some establishments allow shoes in the common areas, while others do not and provide slippers ( スリッパ, surippa) for wear in and around the building. Also, note that slippers should not be worn on tatami (Japanese mats), and there might even be separate toilet slippers for the bathroom. 

    Once you’re by your private onsen, it’s time to strip off. Getting into the steaming hot mineral water with anything other than your clean body is seen as dirtying it. Afterward, you can put your yukata (bathing robe) on and stroll around the gardens.

    5. Follow staff instructions

    Also, typically, ryokan staff will guide visitors to the onsen they reserved after check-in.

    Guests with in-room private onsen will likely be shown around their room and directed to the private pool attached to their room. 

    A coin is usually given to guests wanting to use a rent-by-the-hour private onsen kashikiriburo (貸切風呂) which is inserted into a machine that fills the onsen with fresh water. In some cases, guests might be instructed to hang a wooden tag on the door of the onsen room to indicate that it is occupied.

    6. Wash thoroughly before entering the onsen

    Coming up, pre-onsen cleansing is crucial. Ryokan has washing areas where bathers are expected to clean their bodies and hair before using the onsen using a bucket (洗面器, senmenki). Equally important, nothing- not even a towel, is allowed to enter the water with you, even when no one is watching.

    The steps are first, wash your whole body with soap, second, rinse your whole body until there is no soap left on your body third, enter the onsen and enjoy your experience!

    7. Be sensible

    Sure, no one is watching, but that doesn’t make it a good idea to dive or jump into the onsen. These are places of calm serenity, and they should be treated as such. It's fine to splash a little, especially for your kids, but keep it to a minimum. 

    You might be tempted to let your head drop under the water, but health experts warn it could get you sick. Keep your head above the water’s surface, and in case your head starts to feel weighted, rest it against the pool’s edge. The hot water is bound to bring on dehydration after too long, so it’s best to limit each soak to an hour.

    Private onsen comes in different sizes. The smallest pools, suitable for one person, are slightly wider, and larger than a bathtub. Couples' onsen is about three times the size of a standard bathtub, with the largest family onsen comfortably accommodating seven people. 

    walking outside ryokan with traditional japanese clothes

    8. Showcase your best manners

    Finally, as the saying goes, treat others the way you would like to be treated. Ryokan staff treat lodgers with a high degree of respect, offering impeccable Japanese hospitality (おもてなし, omotenashi) that follows traditional etiquette. Be sure to show them the same care and respect.

    Remember, in the onsen, normal rules apply. For example, refrain from eating, drinking, or smoking in the pools. Taking photos is tempting, but most ryokan staff ask that you do not take electronics near water. 

    In addition, if you are with children, ensure they have all used the toilet before entering the pools. Also, most baths are drained and refilled regularly, but dirtying the water in any way is considered impolite. 

    Still nervous about getting onsen etiquette right? Check out the onsen section of our article in our Ultimate Guide to Japanese Customs. 


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    Extra Tips

    Remember to always stay hydrated! Try to get some hydration in before and after the onsen. Keep the onsen to the minimum, staying in for too long can cause dehydration.

    Speaking of hydration, you should try the milk in the vending machines after a nice soak in the onsen! It is common to drink milk after soaking and almost all onsens will have a vending machine available for you after coming out of the bath.

    Try not to eat anything before entering an onsen. Again, staying in hot waters for long periods of time has the chance of causing an upset stomach. This can be avoided by not eating at least 30 minutes before entering an onsen. 

    Lastly, you cannot forget about the onsen tamago (hot spring egg)! These eggs have been boiled or steamed in onsen water. There are numerous health benefits and minerals that can be beneficial for your body.

    Final Thoughts

    If you made it this far, it's safe to say that you now know a lot more about Japanese private onsen and onsen ryokan than most people! 

    Thousands of onsen can be found throughout Japan, and many ryokan offer the perfect quiet, secluded setting for you to enjoy it. If your schedule only allows for a brief getaway, look for onsen with day trip deals- you can still get the traditional bathing experience close to the city. However, if you’ve got more time and money to spend, you won’t regret treating yourself to a night in a luxurious washitsu room, finished off with a kaiseki meal, a chilled glass of sake, and a long onsen soak.

    You should also be more confident navigating onsen etiquette! Remember to follow the 8 steps, and your weekend should be the stress-free getaway you’d dreamed of.

    Continue your learning journey by exploring our blog articles covering everything Japanese language, customs, and culture.

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