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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 23 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Rob Goss

Japan is a mountainous country, jam-packed with volcanoes – and where there are volcanoes, there are hot springs. The underground geothermal activity heats water, that rises to the surface creating warm (even boiling), mineral-rich pools of water – fantastic for bathing in, if the temperature is right.

It’s estimated that Japan has over 3,000 hot springs – known as onsen – across the country. Good for health, especially skin, relaxing and sociable, it’s not surprisingly, then, that over the centuries a soak in an onsen has become an integral part of Japanese life and culture.

Many naturally occurring onsen have been converted into indoor (noten-buro) or outdoor (roten-buro) pleasure baths. They can be public or private facilities and sometimes contained within your hotel or ryokan.

For the real deal, you need to get out of the major cities to the natural sources of water. Public hot baths in cities, known as sento, don’t quite hit the spot.


Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 6+
When: All year around
Duration: 30+mins

Destination guides


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Kanto, Japan


A dizzying mixture of old ways and modern style, crowds and calm, and arguably the best food scene on the planet.


Kansai, Japan

Geisha woman with white face paint

Ancient temples and shrines, sublime cuisine, manicured gardens, colourful geishas and living history in spades – Kyoto is traditional Japan at its best.



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