Japan is home to over 27,000 hot springs, and no trip is complete without taking a dip in one of their many onsens. But let’s be honest – the thought of taking a bath, stark naked, with complete strangers can be kinda uncomfortable. Even if you’re not easily abashed, those of us with tattoos are usually not allowed into public onsens. The solution? Staying in a ryokan with private onsen!
Ryokans date back to the 8th century and are the oldest hotels in the world. Most of the earliest ones were built along the Tokaido highway, which connects current-day Tokyo and Kyoto. Once providing respite for traders and samurai, today they’re a lodging option for locals and tourists alike.
These traditional accommodations are characterized by tatami mat floorings, futon beds, low wooden tables, shoji screens, and yukata robes. But the real perks of staying at a ryokan is experiencing the culture of omotenashi – Japan’s distinct culture of hospitality. Usually, an elaborate, multi-course kaiseki dinner and traditional breakfast spread is also included in the room rates. And, usually (although not always), access to onsens.
Want to soak in Japanese age-old traditions? These ryokan with private onsen in Japan will offer a luxurious experience, all without the stress of flashing your bits to strangers or getting judged for your body art!
1. Kashiwaya Ryokan, Gunma Prefecture
Our first ryokan with private onsen is Kashiwaya Ryokan in Gunma Prefecture. Gunma is known for its abundance of high-quality hot spring water, said to be able to offer relief to illnesses. There are two rooms here with its own private open-air onsen: KAME which comes with Japanese futons, or HANA which has Western-style beds.
Kashiwaya Ryokan is also one of the few ryokans in Japan with tattoo-friendly onsens. So tattooed folks can use their public onsen without any worry! But if you’d like to enjoy an onsen session in more privacy, the ryokan also houses three separate private onsen. Which means that even if you’re staying in one of their standard rooms, you can still enjoy a private onsen session!
2. Kappo Ryokan Kannawa Bettei, Oita Prefecture
Beppu of Oita Prefecture is one of the most famous onsen towns in Japan. Kannawa Bettei prides itself on offering the best of its city’s nutrient-rich water with six rooms all with their own private onsen. Three of them even have both indoor and outdoor baths!
With rooms that can fit up to six people, Kannawa Bettei is ideal for families travelling with kids. Babies and toddlers still in diapers are not allowed in public onsens, while older kids are expected to behave well in public spaces. This means no horsing or splashing around! It can be stressful bringing kids along to onsens, but with a family room and private onsen, everyone can enjoy a hot dip.
3. Zaborin Ryokan, Hokkaido
What can be more satisfying than an onsen bath in the middle of winter? Zaborin is a contemporary luxury ryokan in Hanazono, Hokkaido. With 15 villas, each with its own indoor and outdoor onsen tapping into mineral-rich volcanic water, Zaborin offers guests an incredibly intimate experience.
The ryokan is easy to access but you’ll feel like you’re in the remote wilderness. Rooms look out onto meadows or the Hanazono forest, and the bar offers a front-row view of Mt. Yotei. Most of the rooms are Western style, with beds instead of futons, and wooden floorings take the place of tatami mats.
4. Gosho Gekkoju, Kumamoto Prefecture
Within the famous Kurogawa Onsen town is Gosho Gekkoju. Every room here has indoor and open-air baths, each fed by a mildly alkaline water that comes directly from its source. A mountain-top open-air bath that offers a panoramic view of the surrounding area is also available for exclusive reservation.
All of the rooms here are Japanese style, true to the rustic vibe of Kurogawa onsen that has resisted commercialization. Gosho Gekkoju is truly the perfect place to enjoy a private, relaxing onsen experience. Take in the perfectly clear morning air, a cloudless daytime sky, or the moon and stars at night!
5. Konansou, Yamanashi Prefecture
Konansou stands in the Fuji Kawaguchiko Onsen town at the base of Mount Fuji. They have 10 types of rooms with private open-air baths, and they feature magnificent views of Mt Fuji or Lake Kawaguchiko. Apart from the views you want to look at when you’re dipping in your onsen, you can also choose if you want a room with beds or futons.
If you’re not staying at one of their rooms with baths, Konansou also has three private onsen that are available for reservation daily. All of them, including their public baths and foot baths all face the majestic Mt Fuji.
6. Bousui, Shizuoka Prefecture
A seaside ryokan with private onsen? Sign me up please. With sweeping views of Sagami Bay, Bousui is one of the few places in Japan where you can enjoy onsen while taking in the sea breeze. All of their rooms only have indoor baths, but guests can enjoy a free 50-minute session in one of their four different private open-air onsen.
There are also two additional premium open-air onsen available for reservation: a zen blue-themed space, and a moon-themed space. The latter has two in-room massage beds, so guests can also opt to add-on a massage for the ultimate luxury onsen experience!
7. Nakanobo Zuien, Hyogo Prefecture
Nakanobo Zuien is located within Japan’s most ancient hot spring resort town, Arima onsen. With over 1,000 years of history, Arima onsen has two types of hot spring water: kinsen (golden spring water) and ginsen (silver spring water).The kinsen has a reddish brown hue due to its high iron content, while ginsen is rich in carbonated acid and radium.
At Nakanobo Zuien you can book a room with both types of spring water, or just with one. The open-air bath is a huge, round bowl tub, with a lovely view over the rooftops of the town and the mountains beyond. If you’re staying in one of their deluxe rooms instead, they also have a private family bath and private open-air bath available for daily reservation.