Mixed-gender bathing has been a part of Japanese culture for centuries until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. In Tokyo, it was banned outright in an attempt to westernize the country. A trip to Shikoku involves discovering and experiencing Japan’s more intimate and quiet side. What better way to relax during a cultural visit than to enjoy one of the region’s many onsen? Whether it’s with friends or a lover, bathing together in the natural paradise of Shikoku is an absolute must.
This list includes konyoku onsen and kashikiri onsen (private rental baths) that can also accommodate mixed-gender bathing while letting you soak up the best of the Shikoku with your partner, family, or friends.
1. Asuka no Yu (Ehime)
A must-see attraction is Dogo Onsen, one of Japan’s oldest hot springs if you’re visiting Matsuyama. In 2017, Dogo Onsen opened an annex to its original location. Asuka no Yu is a mix of modern interior design and traditional Japanese art that mirrors Japan itself. It’s is a luxurious visit for those who want to bathe in style and privacy.
Though the establishment is known for its public baths, the private rooms are jaw-droppingly gorgeous. One of the baths, named Yushiden, replicates the Honkan’s Yushinden bathing room, a bath that was constructed in 1899 and reserved for the Imperial family.
2. Hoshi no Oka Onsen (Ehime)
At Hoshi no Oka, you can pay for a short 1 ½ hour visit, but for under ¥5,500, you can enjoy endless bathing and lounge in the attached rooms from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can choose between 16 different onsen rooms, with some that have both an indoor and an outdoor bath.
3. Hotel Kazurabashi (Tokushima)
Hotel Kazurabashi is the namesake of the famous vine bridge, Iya Kazurabashi. This 45-meter long suspension bridge with creeping plants wrapping around its cables overlooks the Iya Valley and is one of three original Japanese structures remaining. This historical attraction is only a short 20-minute walk from Hotel Kazurabashi.
Patrons who wish to use the mixed bath must ride a wooden cable car to the remote pool. Sadly, in April 2018, the mixed outdoor onsen named “Take no Yu” was converted into a private rental bath. However, the beautiful, secluded bath is a perfect destination for couples looking for a quiet moment together.
4. Iya Onsen Hotel (Tokushima)
A perfect escape after a busy day, Iya Onsen Hotel is just a 15-minute drive from the Iya Kazurabashi bridge. Though this location does not have a mixed public onsen, it’s private rental bath is worth a visit. After making an appointment, you and your company are led to an outdoor stone bath with a beautiful view of the teal-colored river. The bath is rented out in 60-minute increments, giving you enough time to relax and bathe before dinner.
5. Kamitoku Onsen (Ehime)
If you’re one who doesn’t need anything extravagant or expensive for a short stay, Kamitoku Onsen is the way to go. Only a six-minute drive from the ocean, it’s your standard cozy onsen with private rental baths. Visitors have the option of renting a room with an onsen or upgrade to a room with both an onsen and a sauna!
6. Onsen Yurara (Ehime)
A short 20-minute drive from Matsuyama Castle can take you to the homey Onsen Yurara. With a spacious lounging area, bathroom, and stone bath, Onsen Yurara is one of the best hot springs to get the most bang for your buck. On a side note: if you happen to have your furry companion, Onsen Yurara has a dog spa!
7. Seapa Makoto (Ehime)
Seapa Makoto allows you to bathe with your partner, or a group of friends, all at once. With several rooms to choose from, you can opt for a cheaper bath with a view of the surrounding mountains or splurge on a more expensive bath with a seaside view and a sauna. If you don’t feel like going anywhere else post-bath, renting the room for the whole night is also an option.
8. Yumoto Yachio (Kagawa)
Located only a short, 16-minute car ride from the famous Kotohira-gu, or Konpira Shrine, Yumoto Yachio is a great ryokan to stay for a culture-loving visitor. Finish off one historical activity with another by enjoying a mixed onsen experience. What makes this even more exclusive is that this mixed bath is the only one found in all of Kagawa Prefecture and is only open to those staying at the inn.
Thanks to Rod Walters of Shikoku Tours for his help with this article.
Do you know of any mixed bathing onsen in Japan around the Shikoku region that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!