Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, is a popular travel destination for thrill-seekers and foodies alike. The annual average of over 500 centimeters of snow makes the island a haven for skiers and snowboarders. What better way to retreat from the cold than in the healing waters of an onsen?
You can take even take a dip with your friends and family in a konyoku onsen, or mixed-gender hot spring. Sadly, mixed-gender onsen are a bit harder to find than regular onsen. In Hokkaido, they are typically found in hotels and ryokan (Japanese inn), but many of them are in public spaces and feature rustic charm.
Here are seven mixed-gender hot springs in Hokkaido that are worth a visit!
1. Aidomari Onsen
Those who seek a decidedly non-touristy experience must pay a visit to Aidomari Onsen. This hot spring located in a desolate area of Hokkaido, where kombu, or kelp, farming takes place. This onsen is in the open, so swimsuits are required. Bathing season is from May to September, but inclement weather can cause the establishment to close for the day.
Mixed-gender bathing is only allowed from May to June. Huts for dividing genders are installed during kombu harvesting season.
2. Hot Spring Lodge Daiichi
If you fancy a more luxurious and quiet experience, Daiichi is the location for you. Located in a ryokan, or Japanese inn, you can access the baths with a day pass for ¥600 or stay the night for the whole experience. The rotemburo, or open-air bath, is mixed-gender bathing with a beautiful view of the river. Daiichi also has separated bathing facilities, so if you don’t want to stay in the mixed hot spring for an extended period, you can enjoy other baths (though they aren’t mixed).
3. Fukiage Onsen Recreation Facility Shirogane
A popular destination for skiers and outdoorsmen, Shirogane not only offers cheap lodging but lovely bathing as well! It’s an excellent way to end a long day of snow sports. Swimwear is required for mixed bathing, which is great for shy bathers.
4. Kotan Onsen
Kotan is located next to Lake Kussharo in northeastern Hokkaido, which gives visitors a lovely view while soaking in the thermal waters. This spot is popular with both tourists and locals, providing you with a more “real” experience than most locations. Women wear bathing suits, while most men do not—though that does not mean that it is prohibited for men to wear swimsuits. The best thing about Kotan is that it is free!
5. Mizunashi-Kaihin Onsen
Enjoy a soak next to the ocean at Mizunashikaihin. This large stone bath is perfect for family outings. There are copious amounts of space, and swimwear is required. Mizunashikaihin is next to the ocean, so the time and tide affect its hours of use. Here is a link to the time tables for when bathing is allowed. Admission is free, but bathing outside of designated hours is both prohibited and dangerous.
6. Shikaribetsu Gorge Shikanoyu
Why not go to a konyoku onsen while camping? Shikanoyu, located about five minutes away from Shikaribetsu Gorge campgrounds, is a perfect destination for nature lovers. After you set up camp, follow the signs to the outdoor pool where you will find a lovely natural bath next to the Yuyanbetsu River. Shikanoyu is a very natural bath, and seaweed may find its way into the water.
Bathing suits are strictly not allowed at this location, so muster up that courage and be one with nature!
- Address: Kitaurimaku, Shikaoi, Kato District, Hokkaido
7. Iwaobetsu Onsen
These baths are truly a gift from mother nature. One small bath feeds into another, which then feeds into another, resulting in a total of three cozy pools. Because the baths are rather small, onsen goers tend to wear swimsuits, which makes it an appropriate destination for families. Enjoy this natural onsen in a wooded area for free and at any time of the day.
Do you know of any mixed-bathing onsen in Japan outside the Hokkaido region? Let us know in the comments!