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Four Relaxing Kyoto Hotels with Onsen

2023-11-15

Kyoto is known and loved by all for its unique architecture and commitment to preserving its rich heritage. From its sprawling temple complexes to its network of narrow alleyways and streets, this city is a living, breathing showcase of Japanese culture.

However, not all that Japan has to offer is outside the realm of your hotel room; you can (literally) immerse yourself in local traditions and practices without leaving your accommodation's premises by dipping in the hotel's hot spring bath. While it may seem like just another feature of your hotel or resort, the practice of hot spring bathing is embedded in the country’s history.

In this article, we'll cover some basics of hot spring history, how to enter one, and four incredible hotels where you can stay and partake in the ancient art of Japanese bathing.

 

The hot spring story

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Hot spring bathing as a practice was referenced all the way back in 733. An ancient text, the Izumo-no-Kuni Fudoki (Gazetteer of Izumo Province), describes a hot spring in Shimane Prefecture where people of all ages and backgrounds came to wash. According to this text, if you wash once in the hot spring, “your appearance will become beautiful, and if you wash again, you will be cured of all diseases.”

This act of bathing has roots in Shinto, one of Japan’s biggest religions. This ritual is called misogi (ablution) and involves bathing in water to cleanse the body and mind. Both imperial court members and Shinto priests would purify themselves in holy water before important ceremonies to gain clarity and mindfulness. This eventually made its way to people from all walks of life, and through the ages, the act of bathing has evolved and changed to fit the cultural contexts of the time.

 

How to enter a hot spring

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Before we learn how to use and enter a hot spring, know that this type of bathing isn't a religious tradition anymore; it's a normalized, everyday activity. That being said, there are still some rules and practices to be aware of.

Here's what you need to know. Remove all clothing (including undergarments) in the locker room and put them into a locker or basket. If you have specialized toiletries due to allergies or personal preferences, bring them in a plastic or toiletries bag. Before you enter the bath, rinse and shower in the wash area. Because the baths are a shared space, you're expected to wash fully so that you're clean before you enter the bath.

The concept is simple for most hot spring baths: start with the hottest bath and end with an ice bath or shower. Some places will have a sauna, so before entering the ice bath, feel free to spend some time there.

And that's about it! There are some additional rules and etiquette, but for the most part, that is the most basic explanation of how to use a hot spring bath. If you’d like some more tips, be sure to bookmark our beginner’s guide to hot spring culture.

 

1. Panoramic views at Shijo Kawaramachi Onsen Soraniwa Terrace Kyoto

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Opened in June 2022, Shijo Kawaramachi Onsen Soraniwa Terrace Kyoto is conveniently located a minute's walk from Kyoto-kawaramachi Station. Despite being in central Kyoto, you can relax in the open-air hot spring bath sourced from the hotel's own natural hot spring. There's also a tachi-yu (stand-up bath) nearly four feet deep that allows you to soak in the hot spring while upright. Be sure to check out the rooftop lounge afterward, which offers a stunning panoramic view of the city and even has a footbath to enjoy.

The hotel offers three types of rooms: the Moderate Double is a compact utilitarian room equipped with a 59-inch-wide Simmons bed, the Superior Double comes with a 62-inch-wide Simmons bed, and the Universal Twin is a spacious barrier-free room with two single beds.

 

2. Renew yourself at Suiran Luxury Collection Hotel Kyoto

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Overlooking the winding Hozu River, Suiran Luxury Collection Hotel Kyoto is a riverside resort combining the best of modern Japanese design and traditional hospitality. It's one of the more luxurious choices on this list but comes with an array of amenities and facilities to ensure your stay is unlike any other.

Some of the hotel's highlights include free-flowing champagne service from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily at Cafe Hassui, which offers views of the surrounding Arashiyama area. The hotel's attention to detail extends both before and after your stay, with guests invited to indulge in a rickshaw service ferrying them to and from the nearest train station.

With the World Heritage site of Tenryu-ji Temple adjacent to the hotel, there are many places to see and visit in this corner of Kyoto. Some of our recommended places include the Iwatayama Monkey Park, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, and Fukuda Art Museum, all of which are minutes away on foot. The hotel's convenient location makes it perfect for venturing out and coming back to rest whenever you feel like it. Their Yuzunoha rooms come with two bedding options — twin or king — and both include a private cypress wood bathtub for your comfort.

 

3. A comfortable countryside getaway at Minshuku Ohara-no-Sato

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The mountains of Northern Kyoto are home to Ohara, a rural town around an hour’s journey from Kyoto Station. In this beautiful town is Minshuku Ohara-no-Sato, a countryside inn serving up baths and hotpots. Known for Sanzen-in Temple, the town blooms to life during the fall foliage season. The nearby Jikko-in Temple garden also has fuyuzakura (winter-blooming cherry trees); if you time your visit just right, you may be able to see both autumn leaves and cherry blossoms! (Check out our guide to fuyuzakura here.)

Minshuku Ohara-no-Sato is a little different from your usual hotel experience. A minshuku is generally considered to be a Japanese-style bed and breakfast, usually operated by families. In this case, all the guestrooms are standard Japanese-style tatami rooms, and guests (except for those in certain rooms) will share toilet and bath facilities. What’s great is that the bath facilities are incredible. Outfitted with a hot spring said to have beneficial healing and soothing effects, guests can have a classic wooden bath experience or try an open-air Goemon kettle bath. This, paired with one of their specialty dishes, a miso hotpot, provides a quaint yet relaxing escape from the busy areas of Kyoto.

 

4. Set the scene at Amanohashidate Onsen Japanese Resort Monjusou

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Amanohashidate has been voted one of the top-three views in all of Japan. This pine-covered sandbar in the northern coastal region of Kyoto is home to Amanohashidate Onsen Japanese Resort Monjusou, a Japanese resort well known for its hot spring facilities. Besides the baths, take a break on the large terrace, enjoy some drinks in the lounge, or relax by the fireplace.

One of this resort’s most remarkable features is its hot spring, Amanohashidate Onsen, believed to possess skin-beautifying properties. The bathhouse was recently renovated (April 2023), so if you’re looking to sweat out those toxins, you can try the Finnish sauna for men or the nano mist sauna for women.

After a decompressing dip in the baths, help yourself to a meal at Mon, a stone kiln restaurant serving seasonal cuisine that takes advantage of the time of year and the delicacies harvested in the local area.