If you are visiting Japan there are a few customs, traditions and pastimes that you must experience to truly appreciate the Japanese way of living. Once you have ticked off a karaoke session with friends, have had too much sake at a local izakaya and experienced a traditional ‘hanami’ you will have a lovely taste of the way Japanese people live and how they take time to appreciate their family, friends, nature and good times.
One more Japanese custom that all visitors must try at least once is going to an onsen. An onsen is a hot spring and a place that Japanese people frequent to clean themselves, relax and bond with family or friends. Japan is well-known for its plethora of unique onsens across each of the Japanese regions and are visited by many locals and foreigners each day. It is Japan’s high level of volcanic activity coupled with its geographical location which perfectly coincide to create natural hot springs.
In Hokkaido, and in particular in the Niseko region you will find an abundance of onsens dispersed around the impressive volcano of Mount Yotei. A long day on the slopes followed by a hot onsen in the cold air is one the best ways to reward the body for endless persistence on the slopes. Although many westerners may be hesitant to get naked in front of strangers, onsens are the perfect way to experience Japanese culture, relax and bathe in warm, healing waters at a relatively low cost.
Located in the lower Hirafu village you will find this indoor/outdoor onsen. The conveniently located Yukoro onsen is within walking distance of most of the accommodations in Hirafu and is often a popular choice for those visiting as well as locals. Unlike most traditional onsens, people with tattoos are permitted to visit and you will be able to enjoy a quiet beer as the snow falls in the outdoor onsen.
Also located conveniently in the heart of Hirafu this onsen can be found on the main street within the Niseko Prince Hotel. This indoor/outdoor onsen is situated on the edge of the popular family run and provides a great viewpoint to watch skiers and snowboarders navigating the busy slopes. Rest assured it’s a one-way view!
Located close to the Annupuri and Moiwa ski resort you will find this more traditional Japanese onsen. The 10-15 minute drive from Niseko is well worth the trip and allows you to escape some of the busier onsens in town as well as enjoying the unmodified naturally flowing springs and authentic Japanese touches. This is one of the only onsens that is opened early in the morning and you will be able to visit from as early as 6am.
A luxurious onsen which is available to guests staying at The Hilton free of charge, or to anybody else for a modest fee. Being a ski in ski out hotel, you can even ski over to Niseko Village from Hirafu and have an onsen in the middle of your ski day! The greatest selling point of this onsen is the stunning views of Mount Yotei which fills the sky from its rotenburo.
If you are willing to take the slightly longer trip around to Goshiki you will fall in love with this charming and secluded onsen. The picturesque views from the outdoor bath and the soothing hot springs will leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated and ready for another day on the slopes.
Niseko Grand Hotel
Unlike most of the other Niseko onsens the Niseko Grand Hotel hot spring offers mixed male and female bathing and a more relaxed atmosphere to unwind in after a long day on the slopes. The perfect stop on your way back from Annupuri/ Moiwa or Rusutsu ski resorts.
There are countless bathing options in the Niseko area, each with a unique health benefit, bathing options and all at a reasonable price so be sure to capitalise on this unique Japanese experience whilst you are in Niseko.