Japan’s konyoku onsen, or mixed-gender hot springs, was a national norm for hundreds of years. Today, only a few hundred of these traditional hot springs still exist, and they’re especially hard to find in the Kansai area.
Keep in mind that many of these baths require a reservation in advance. To make a reservation at a Japanese inn, state that you want to book the kashikiri (private) onsen. Many of these inns have English-speaking staff and will help make your reservation quick and stress-free.
Without further ado, here are nine hot springs in Kansai where you can enjoy in mixed-gender bathing.
1. Arima Grand Hotel (Kobe)
Arima Grand Hotel has glamorous baths specially catered to mixed-gendered seeking parties. When making a reservation, visitors have the option between two different private spa rooms geared towards couples, or three different family size spa rooms. Each spa room has a modern Japanese-styled lounging room to recharge your mind and body fully.
2. Hotel Kitanoya (Kyoto)
When you enter the granite bath at Hotel Kitanoya, the scent of cypress trees and the sound of trickling water transports you to a natural oasis. You can’t help but admire the beautiful woodwork that makes up the walls and ceiling.
Because this onsen is inside a hotel, making a reservation in advance is required. If you’re visiting during the winter, I recommend staying for a meal as well. This ryokan is well known for its crab dishes.
3. Kaisyu (Wakayama)
Step in the clear waters of Kaisyu’s outdoor bath while admiring Wakyama’s endless blue sea. The rocky, flat-stoned spa provides visitors with a natural yet luxurious experience. A stay at this inn is the only way to experience this lavish mixed-gender bath. If you call ahead, a staff member can pick you up and drive you to your destination.
4. Kawayu Onsen (Wakayama)
Another hidden gem in Wakayama Prefecture, Kawayu Onsen is a bath for the adventurous. This hot spring is a real treat in winter. You can even cool down the water temperature to your liking by adding fresh river water if it’s too hot. You must wear a bathing suit or towel, and the best part is it’s free!
This bath may be closed if river water levels are too high.
5. Kikunoya (Shiga)
Kikunoya is a ryokan, or Japanese-style inn, located in Shiga Prefecture. The inn offers beautiful views of Lake Biwa with your family or partner from a private open-air stone bath under a wooden pavilion.
Visitors must reserve the bath in advance for one-hour blocks.
6. Rurikei Onsen (Kyoto)
Escape the hustle and bustle of Kyoto at Rurikei Onsen, located just one hour outside of the city. This establishment has more of a family-friendly environment with its onsen and “onsen pool” facilities, which require a bathing suit. Rurikei also offers a barbecue picnic of assorted meats, veggies, and bread! Rurikei Onsen is the perfect onsen experience for the family.
7. Ryujin Onsen (Wakayama)
Ryujin Onsen was founded in Wakayama, nearly 1,300 years ago. Built right along the Hidakagawa River, the small, outdoor mixed-gender bath offers clear waters and spectacular riverside views. This onsen is not for the shy. The view isn’t private at all, so consider wrapping in a towel if you feel uncomfortable.
8. Spa World (Osaka)
Osaka’s world-famous public sento (bathhouse) features an amusement park feel in one of Japan’s largest cities. Spa World has different floors with baths from around the world. The eighth floor features a bath that can be enjoyed together by friends, family, and couples with swimsuits on.
Spa World is a great spot for people who are not 100 percent comfortable with going fully nude in an onsen.
9. Tsuboyu Onsen (Wakayama)
Tsuboyu is a rustic onsen found in Wakayama’s Yunomine Onsen Village. It is one of Japan’s oldest hot springs, is a UNESCO World Heritage spot, and offers a rich history that goes back some 1,800 years. This tiny bath is carved from stone and enclosed within a small wooden hut.
It comfortably fits one to two people for up to 30 minutes, and no reservation is required. However, you must buy a ticket that works on a first-come, first-served system.
If you’re looking for more onsen options, you can discover more hot spring areas and getaways all over Japan at GaijinPot Travel.
Do you know of a mixed-bathing onsen in Japan outside the Kansai region? Let us know in the comments!