The entrance to a day onsen near Tokyo

Public bathing at the hot springs or onsen is by no means a recent phenomenon in Japanese culture. References in the kogiji—the oldest extant chronicle in Japan—show that Japanese have been bathing in the hot springs for well over a thousand years, and there are many historical accounts of feudal lords having their own favourite onsen spots (kakushi-yu) where they may have let their samurai bathe after battle (the onsen has long been known for its healing qualities). During the Edo period, as the checkpoints and barriers that had previously prevented the exchange of information and people from one domain to another began to vanish, rumors about where to find the best hot springs began to spread. Citizens began to travel outside their own area to onsen regions such as Yamanashi and Niigata, leading to the onsen culture that we know in Japan today.

There remains an abiding image both in Japan and abroad that you need to travel to the mountainous regions of the country to experience the hot springs. In fact, while regional Japan does have some of the most famous and photographed onsen, there are many traditional establishments located in and near Tokyo that offer an equally good glimpse into the ubiquitous culture of public bathing. Some good examples include Yumori no Sato in Chofu and Shiraku no Yu in Kanagawa.

For some foreign visitors the idea of stripping down and bathing with others might not be the most natural thing to do, but armed with a little knowledge about the customs and etiquette in the onsen there’s no reason not to enjoy this significant part of Japanese culture, and the many different baths in which you can soak your bones.

One common question is regarding tattoo policy at the day onsen. Unfortunately, many establishments have a strict policy of denying entry to anyone with body markings, but if the tattoo isn’t too conspicuous you should be able to use the onsen if you cover it up.

Hot Springs in Tokyo

Heiwajima Onsen

Natural onsen with spacious facilities and a shuttle service to Haneda airport.
¥2,000 on weekdays and ¥2,300 at weekends (+¥1,300 for overnight stays)

Myojin no Yu Onsen

Myojin no Yu is a popular day onsen in Adachi Ward, northeast Tokyo. It is in the middle…
10:00-24:00 (reception closes at 23:00). Closed on the 3rd Tuesday each month
¥1,100 on weekdays and ¥1,400 at weekends. Discounts for children and seniors

Oedo Onsen Monogatari

Tokyo’s most famous onsen is undoubtedly Oedo Onsen Monogatari in Odaiba. Its attraction is a combination of easy access, a multitude of services, and Edo-style amusement arcade designed with young people and foreigners in mind.
11:00-9:00 (the next day). Open all year round
~¥2,800 yen on weekdays, ~¥3,000 on weekends. Children ~¥1,000. Discounts available after 6pm.

Ofuro no Osama: Oimachi

The Oimachi branch of the famous chain onsen. Not the most peaceful onsen due to its convenient location…
9:30-8:30 (the next day)
Adults ¥1,400-1,800 (depending on the day) with discounts for students and children (+¥800 for the hot stone spa).

Edoyu Onsen

Well-known spa in Ryogoku that offers a wide variety of baths and saunas, and many other services.
11:00-09:00 (next day)
Adults ¥2,750 but less than half price for morning visits (6:00-8:00am) and for those who stay less than one hour.

Sengawa Yukemuri no Sato

Sengawa Yukemuri no Sato is a day onsen near Chofu. It’s a very typical family-orientated onsen with a…
Every day 10:00-26:00
Weekends: Adults ¥850 | Children ¥450. Weekdays: Adults ¥750 | Children ¥400. Entrance fee does not include a towel

Seoto no Yu Onsen

Seoto no Yu is located in the very western regions of Tokyo. It’s not the easiest of day…
Adults ¥900, children ¥450

The Spa Seijo

Natural onsen in Setagaya with naturally black spring water drawn from 1,200 meters below ground.
Adults ¥1,300-1,800 (depending on the day) with discount for children

Toki no Irodori Onsen

Toki no Irodori is a natural onsen in Inagi City, just under an hour from central Tokyo. It…
9:00-25:00 (reception closes at midnight). Opens at 7am at the weekends and on public holidays
Weekdays: Adults ¥800 | Under 15s ¥450. Weekends: Adults ¥950 | Under 15s ¥650. Towel set not included but available for hire

Yumori no Sato

Yumori no Sato is a day onsen located in the beautiful Jindaiji Motomachi area and is the perfect…
10:00-22:00 all year round
¥1,100 with a towel set for adults (¥900 if you’re there for less than an hour).