Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu is well known for its abundant onsen (hot springs). Dipping into the prefecture’s thermal waters is a must, especially if you can do it with all of your friends or significant other.
These days, the konyoku onsen, or mixed-gendered bath, is a rare and dying breed. Every year, more facilities are closing their doors or changing their policies so that men and women bathe separately. Traditionally, onsen were meant for men and women to bathe together. However, after Japan became westernized, the practice became taboo.
Below, you will find a list of mixed-gendered baths in Kagoshima, Kumamoto, and Oita. Though not all of these locations require a reservation, some are in a ryokan (Japanese inn), and only allow guests to use them. Here, then, are nine onsen in Kyushu where you can soak up the experience of mixed-gender bathing.
1. Hirauchi Kaichu Onsen (Kagoshima)
Hirauchi Kaichu Onsen is where the adventurous soul will have an unforgettable dip. Watch the sun sink into the sea surrounded by salty, sulfuric water and jagged black rock. The best part: it only costs ¥100 to enter. This bath is only open during low tide, so a little planning is necessary when visiting. Keep in mind that patrons are not allowed to wear any bathing suits in the facility.
2. Myoken Ishiharaso (Kagoshima)
Are you looking for a luxurious experience without having to reserve a private bath? Myoken Ishiharaso offers just that. The outdoor bath named Muku no Ki is a riverside onsen with moss-covered rock surrounding it. This picturesque setting is the perfect place to unwind in style while enjoying the beautiful outdoors. This bath is mixed between 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to midnight, so a little planning is required.
3. Hozantei (Kumamoto)
Hozantei is a ryokan located in the small onsen town of Minamioguni. This town is famous for preserving its small-town charm without tainting its traditional landscape with neon lights and dull, modern buildings. The cozy inn has one mixed-gender outdoor bath that is perfect for getting in touch with nature. Views of the nearby river and pond provide a beautiful panorama for those who seek a more quiet bathing experience.
4. Oku no Yu (Kumamoto)
Oku no yu is also in the charming town of Minamioguni. The indoor baths are separated by gender, but the outdoor baths are mixed. With three stoned baths settled along the river offering a beautiful view of the outdoors, it’s easy to pass the time with friends or a lover in this relaxing setting.
5. Hage no Yu (Kumamoto)
Urban legend has boasted for many years that hage no yu, which translates to “baldness water,” cures hair thinning. Though there is no proof that it actually does this, Ryokoan Yamasui is worth visiting for those who want to experience an older, traditional Japan. This mountainside location is fantastic, for it offers a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding area, all while soaking in high-quality spring water. The mixed-gender bath is closest to the hot spring’s source, so patrons of this bath will enjoy the freshest —and warmest—water.
6. Fukumotoya Kabeyu (Oita)
Fukumotoya Kabeyu has a history dating back 300 years. An onsen with a little taste of old Japan has a beautiful riverside bath sitting inside a small cave. Everything from the ryokan interior to the old, stone baths transport you to a natural, untouched Japan that can only be found in the countryside.
7. Hoyo Land (Oita)
Hoyo Land Onsen’s specialty is muddy water. This mineral-rich silt is a milky color due to the heavy presence of clay, which you can use for skin treatment. The cloudy water also works as a screen for shy bathers. Hoyo Land is also in Beppu, a town renowned for its onsen. If you don’t care for Hoyolanda, you can definitely find one that you do like.
8. Beppu Beach Sandbath (Oita)
What makes this particular destination unique is that it is technically not an onsen because it doesn’t use water. Instead of soaking in pools of warm water, you are buried in heated sand. This experience is excellent for those who are shy about being naked around others because the facilities require you to wear a provided yukata for “bathing.”
Do you know of any mixed-bathing onsen in Japan outside the Kyushu region? Let us know in the comments!