Myoko onsen (natural hot springs) are one of the area’s true treasures. People come from all around Japan (and the world!) to visit and bathe. The many onsen located in and around the base of Mt. Myoko are renowned for their charm. Some of these are public or community run institutions whilst others can be found in your Myoko accommodation or dedicated private onsen facilities. After a day of enjoying skiing, trekking or just enjoying Myoko’s magnificent natural setting, visitors can wind down with a long, relaxing soak in one of the many Myoko onsen available. Enjoy!
Never used an onsen before? Click here for explainers, tips and onsen etiquette.
Also check out our Joetsu Onsen guide here.
Niigata Onsen Guide: Myoko Onsen
Myoko has established a system for certifying individuals with special knowledge and experience in the Myoko area—the Myoko Shizen, or nature sommeliers.
Like a wine sommelier, onsen sommelier Kazuhiro Toma knows the characteristics and subtle differences to be found in Myoko onsen; he shares some of his knowledge of their charms and unique features.
“Myoko Kogen (kogen is a word you’ll often see, meaning “plateau” or “highland”) has seven hot springs: Akakura Onsen, Shin-Akakura Onsen, Ikenotaira Onsen, Myoko Onsen, Suginosawa Onsen, Tsubame Onsen, and Seki Onsen. Although all of the onsen have their sources high on Mt. Myoko (one of the 100 ‘Famous mountains of Japan’) the waters that emerge are quite different in color – clear, reddish-brown or milky white.”
“It is very unusual for onsen with sources so close to each other to be so different in their color and mineral content. This is part of the unique charm of bathing in Myoko, and something that truly sets it apart. Each day you can enjoy a slightly different onsen experience, with a different look, smell and feeling to the skin.”
“We onsen sommelier are happy to talk with guests about these differences; we can go into a lot of detail, if you’re really interested! But I can also say that all of them are great for relaxing after a hard day skiing or snowboarding. Soaking in an onsen is a ideal way to ease stiff muscles, or just to unwind after a day of fun. See you in the tub!”
Myoko Onsen Sommelier
Myoko Onsen Information
Benefits: Effective against diabetes, external wounds, arteriosclerosis, gastrointestinal disorders, nervous disorders, rheumatism, hemorrhoids
Information: Opened in 1816, Akakura Onsen is the largest of Myoko’s onsen, and one long popular with Japanese and international tourists. The Akakura Hot Spring is located at the foot of the 800-meter tall Mt. Myoko in Niigata Prefecture and draws its sulfate water from this mountain – one of the hundred famous mountains of Japan with a height of 2454 meters. The spring has two types of water quality and has a good reputation for making the skin beautiful while also curing wounds. The water is renown for its rejuvenating properties, so some Japanese names for it translate as “water for beautiful women” and “natural skin toner”. Taki no Yu (see picture right) gets about 3000 litres per minute of gensen kakinagashi (pure onsen in and out). The main onsen in Akakura is closed in winter but you can still enjoy a bath at one of the many hotels listed on the Myoko onsen map below!
Benefits: Effective against neuralgia, aching joints, frozen shoulder syndrome.
This hot spring is located in Shin-Akakura between Akakura and Ikenotaira in the Akakan Ski Area. It was opened in 1929 by separating it from the Akakura Hot Spring which has its source in Mt. Myoko’s northern Jigokudani Valley and Maeyama, a nearby mountain. Shin-Akakura Onsen is a tranquil hot spring surrounded by woods. It was developed as a resort at the fork of the road to Akakura Onsen and Ikenotaira Onsen. Shin-Akakura Onsen has the same hot water source as Akakura Onsen, making the baths good for the skin and healing. Surrounded by groves of white birches and Japanese larches, Shin-Akakura’s serene environs are perfect for relaxing. Directly below the face of Mt. Myoko, it is ideal for visitors who want to experience this elegant, distinctive mountain.
Benefits: Effective against chronic skin diseases, sensitivity to cold, nervous disorders, rheumatism, fatigue, chronic women’s diseases and neuralgia.
Information: Surrounded by white birches, Ikenotaira Onsen is a hot springs resort on the highlands with beautiful views all season round. There are two public onsen in the area which is found on a plateau approximately 760 meters above sea level. Ike-no-Taira Onsen is located on of Mt. Myoko near Imori Ike (literally, “Salamander Pond”) which has long been a symbol of Ikenotaira. The pond perfectly reflects Mt. Myoko; in the summer, alpine plants burst into bloom, creating a landscape of rich beauty. Soaking in these natural hot spring waters is perfect for relaxing and recuperating from work fatigue. The area is dotted with birch trees and has an almost European atmosphere. The 72-degree hot spring water, drawn from the Minamijigokudani Valley, has a sulfurous scent and creates unique black mineral deposits in the shape of flowers. Perfect for relaxing and recuperating from a days skiing or walking.
Benefits: Effective in chills, nervous disorders, fatigue, rheumatism, chronic women’s diseases
Information: Myoko Onsen is in the area’s ‘old village’ area that was very popular up till the 1960’s. It’s easily accessible, only 15 minutes on foot from Myokokogen Station. The source spring is located halfway up Mount Myoko. This area has many hot springs, but Myoko Onsen is the only place where you can enjoy a full view of the beautiful mountain. This hot spring provides a soft, gentle stimulation to the skin – perfect for those who like a long, lingering soak.
Benefits: Skin Disease, Neuralgic, Muscle Pains, Joint Pains, Frozen Shoulder, Motor Paralysis, Bruises, Sprains, Enteropathy, Hemorrhoids, Bad Circulation, Incised Wounds, Burns, Women’s Disease
Information: The only onsen facility close to Myoko Suginohara Ski Resort is the community run Naena no Yu (see pic right), its name hailing from the Naena waterfall nearby. In winter the hot spring is perfect for warming your body after skiing, and in summer it refreshes you after trekking and visiting the waterfall. It is a very simple structure with only an indoor tub but is completely barrier-free. The water is nearly clear, has no odor and perfect for a moment of relaxation.
Benefits: Effective against cuts, burns, nervous disorders, rheumatism, skin diseases, chronic women’s disease
Information: This is a historic hot spring that is said to have been discovered by famous priest Kobo Daishi (774-835), and opened fully in 1727 during the Edo Period. The traditional streets of Seki Onsen still retain the atmosphere of days when spa trips for healing were lengthy affairs – a slower pace that visitors continue to find soothing. The hot water that springs out from deep underground is cloudy and red with iron, and is well known for the lasting effect of heating the body. High in the mountains, Seki Onsen is a popular destination for mountain climbing and nature hikes from spring to fall and skiing in the winter.
Benefits: Effective for rheumatism, neuralgia, gynecological problems and minor burns.
Information: Set on a spectacular cliff-side setting, Tsubame Onsen has long been a destination for those desiring the road less traveled. The spring boasts white yubana (flower shaped crystals) in its mineral rich waters. The hot spring water is a milky white, and gives the skin a healthy sheen. The atmosphere here is somewhat nostalgic – reflecting a Japan of the post-war era. Some Tsubame Onsen hotels and facilities close here in the wintertime due to the famous heavy snows but others offer a unique wintertime experience – some only with access by snow cat. Ougon no Yu (pictured above), which has pools separated by bamboo mats, is one of the two free onsen that can be reached by hiking out on one of the trails leading up to Mt. Myoko from the top of the village area. Take the path to the left for about 3 minutes up a steep hill (the old ski area). The other, Kawara no Yu, is a konyoku rotemburo onsen (mixed gender outdoor bath). For this one you have to take the right track for about ten minutes, cross over a suspension bridge, then take the small river path to the left for about 5 minutes. Pack your own towels (and modesty).
Benefits: Skin disease, women’s diseases
Information: The spring water for Sekigawa Kyodo Yokujo is drawn through a pipe buried in the ground that extends approximately ten kilometres from the Minamijigokudani Valley in the Myoko mountain range. Although the temperature of the water at the source is 72℃, it cools down to approximately 50℃ by the time it arrives in Sekigawa. The water is known to feel smooth and gentle, warming up the body from inside. Approximately five minutes drive from Myokokogen Station.
Hoshizora Onsen (Lotte Arai Resort)
Information: Hoshizora Onsen is a hot spring facility adjacent to Lotte Arai Resort. It’s situated at the base of the ski piste where you’ll see many hotels and restaurants. Surrounded by the mountains and nature, you can see the sky full of stars at night from the outdoor bath. Springing out from 1,750 m underground, the hot water is mildly alkaline with many ingredients that enhance beauty. The same facility also offers an indoor swimming pool that’s open all year. These facilities are open to hotel guests and day visitors.