Japan’s konyoku onsen, or mixed gender hot springs, were a national norm for hundreds of years. It wasn’t until the Meiji Restoration when the country saw a sharp decline in these establishments. The reason? Many foreigners found the idea of bathing with the opposite gender repulsive. Today, only a few hundred of these traditional hot springs still exist.
Konyoku onsen in various other regions are already scarce, but they’re especially hard to find in the Kansai area. Many of these baths require a reservation in advance, but your preparations are later compensated with an experience that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. When making a reservation at a Japanese inn, simply state that you are wanting to book the kashikiri (private) onsen. Many of these inns have English-speaking staff and will help make your reservation quick and stress-free. So, here are nine hot springs in Kansai where you can partake in mixed gender bathing.
1. Arima Grand Hotel, Kobe Prefecture
With private mixed-gendered baths specialized for couples and families, Arima Grand Hotel has glamorous baths specially catered to the mixed-gendered seeking parties. Onsen goers have the option between 2 different private spa rooms geared towards couples, or 3 different family size spa rooms when making a reservation. Each spa room has a modern Japanese-styled lounging area to fully recharge your mind and body. Tip: Call the inn ahead of time to let the staff know when you will arrive at the station. A staff member will be there to pick you up and drive you to your destination.
- Admission: ¥3,800-4,850 for 70 minutes, ¥5,550-¥7,200 for 140 minutes (couple’s rooms); ¥2,160 for 45 minutes, ¥3,240 for 90 minutes (family rooms). Reservations required.
- Access: 3-minute shuttle bus from Arima Onsen station
- Address: 1304-1 Arima-cho, Kita-ku, Kobe
2. Hotel Kitanoya, Kyoto Prefecture
When entering the granite bath of Hotel Kitanoya, the scent of cypress trees surrounds you as 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 located at an inn, making a reservation in advance is required. Tip: If you’re visiting during the winter, I recommend staying for a meal as well, for this ryokan is well known for its crab dishes.
- Admission: ¥3,000 per 50 minutes, reservation required
- Access: 7 minutes on foot from Amanohashidate station
- Address: 100 Monju, Miyazu City, Kyoto Prefecture 626-0001
3. Kaishu, Wakayama Prefecture
Steep in the teal waters of Kaishu’s outdoor bath while admiring the endless blue sea. The rocky, flat-stoned bath provides visitors with a natural yet luxurious experience. Bath goers will receive bathing towels so that men and women can comfortably bathe without worrying about covering one’s self. A stay at this inn is the only way to get the full experience, as only ryokan patrons can only experience this lavish mixed-gender bath. Tip: Call the inn ahead of time to let the staff know when you will arrive at the station. A staff member will be there to pick you up and drive you to your destination.
- Admission: Day pass unavailable, ryokan stay only, reservation required
- Access: Six-minute drive from Yuhigaura Kitsuonsen station
- Address: 46-4 Aminocho Hamazume, Kyotango-shi, Kyoto Prefecture 629-3245
4. Kawayu Onsen Sennin-buro, Wakayama Prefecture
Kawayu Onsen is one for adventurous souls. This outdoor hot spring’s source comes from the river and is surprisingly warm. Cool down the water temperature to your liking by adding cool river water to the bathing area, which is created by surrounding riverbed stones. 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.
- Admission: Free, no reservation required
- Access: 60-minute bus ride from Shingu station
- Address: Hongucho Kawayu, Tanabe City, Wakayama Prefecture 647-1717
5. Kikunoya, Shiga Prefecture
Kikunoya is a ryokan, or Japanese-style inn, which offers a private, luxurious experience. The stone open-air bath sits under a wooden pavilion, creating an intimate atmosphere. Beautiful views of Lake Biwa can be seen from the comfort of the private bath shared with you and your guests. This private room also comes with a washroom and sitting area for when you want to take a break from soaking. Visitors must reserve the bath in advance for one-hour blocks.
- Admission: ¥5,000 per 60 minutes, reservation required
- Access: 5-minute shuttle bus ride from JR Oto station
- Address: 6−1−29 Shiga Prefecture, Otsu City, Ogoto, 20-0101
6. Rurikei Onsen, Kyoto Prefecture
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 even bread! This is the perfect destination for the family.
- Admission: ¥700 day pass, no reservation required
- Access: 30-minute bus ride from Sonobe station
- Address: 622-0065 Kyōto-fu, Nantan-shi, 園部町大河内広谷1−14
7. Ryujin Onsen “Shimonose,” Wakayama Prefecture
Ryujin Onsen was established about 1,300 years ago on Tokugawa Yoshinobu’s orders. 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, for onsen patrons can be seen plainly from all around. Wrapping a towel around your body is strongly recommended.
- Admission: ¥1,000 day pass, no reservation required
- Access: Approximately one-hour drive or bus ride from Wakayama City
- Address: 645-0525 Ryujin Shimogoten Onsen, 38 Ryujinmura Ryūjin, Tanabe City, Wakayama Prefecture
8. Spa World, Osaka Prefecture
Enjoy this massive public sento, or bathhouse, with an amusement park feel in one of Japan’s largest cities. Spa World is an interesting specimen of public bathhouses, for different floors of this establishment have baths from around the world. Though most of these baths are separated by gender, the eighth floor has a co-ed bath where friends, family and couples can bathe together — with swimsuits on. This is a great place for individuals who are not 100 percent comfortable with going fully nude in a public bath.
- Admission: ¥1,300-¥2,700 (3-hour pass), ¥1,500-¥3,000 (all day pass), no reservation required
- Access: 5-minute walk from Nankai Dentetsu Shinimamiya station
- Address: 3-4-24 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa-ku, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture 556-0002
9. Tsuboyu Onsen, Wakayama Prefecture
Tsuboyu is located along a river that runs through the Yunomine Onsen area, one of Japan’s oldest hot springs, is a UNESCO World Heritage spot and offers 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. Here is a video on how to use the Tsuboyu bath.
- Admission: ¥770 for 30 minutes, no reservation required
- Access: 70 minute bus ride from Shingu Station
- Address: Hongucho Shimoyukawa, Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture 647-1732
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 an mixed-bathing onsen in Japan outside the Kansai region? Let us know in the comments!