In Japan, you can visit thousands of great hot springs, but one of the most rewarding onsen experiences is the soak in a remote mountain hot spring in the Japanese Alps after a long hike. I have already written a post about beautiful hot springs in the mountains, but I also wanted to write one just about beautiful onsens in the Japanese Alps.
If you are looking for onsen deep in the Japanese Alps Hakuba Yari Onsen Goya in Nagano and Takamagahara Onsen in Toyama are your best choices. Mikurigaike Onsen is Japan’s highest onsen, while Hakuba Highland Hotel and Renge Onsen Rotenburo are more accessible hot springs in the Japanese Alps.
Below you will find a good mix of secret onsen and more accessible onsen located in the Japanese Alps. Since Japan’s Alps stretch over several Prefectures and are divided into the Northern Alps (Hida Mountains), the Central Alps (Kiso Mountains), and the Southern Alps (Akaishi Mountains), I tried to find beautiful onsen in each mountain range, but most of my recommendations are located in Japan’s Northern Alps. Some of the onsens are only accessible in summer, but others you can also visit in the winter months.
1. Hakuba Highland Hotel (Northern Alps)
Location: Hakuba, Near Nagano & Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture
General Information: Hakuba Highland Hotel (白馬 ハイランド ホテル) is an onsen hotel located in the renowned winter ski resort Hakuba Happo-One Snow Resort. The resort is near Mount Shirouma, one of the major peaks in the Hida Mountain range of Japan’s Northern Alps and the 26th tallest mountain in Japan. For many Japanese hikers, the mountain is extremely high on their to-climb list. It is one of the few peaks that have snowfields all year round and if you descend via the slopes of Yarigatake you can soak or stay at Hakuba Yari Onsen, one of the highest natural onsen in Japan.
Onsen near the Northern Alps: The hotel’s gender-separated onsen facilities feature an indoor bath, a 10-meter wide open-air bath, and a private onsen bath with beautiful views of the Japanese Alps. Since the hotel welcomes day-trippers you can soak in the hot spring located at a height of 700 meters above sea level even as a non-staying guest. You can come here all year round and soak from 11:00 – 20:00 o’clock. In winter you will be surrounded by snow while in autumn you can see colorful fall colors.
Private Onsen: If you are staying overnight you can also rent the private onsen. The rental fee is 3,000円 (about $30 or 25€) and you can soak for 50 minutes.
Access: From the nearest JR station, Hakuba Station, the hotel is a 15-minute walk away. From Nagano, you can get there in 90 minutes if you take the bus. Matsumoto is a 1-hour train ride away.
Price: 700円 (about $7 or 6€), but each month on the 26th it is only 400円
Website: www.hakuba-highland.net (Japanese)
2. Hakuba Yari Onsen Goya (Northern Alps)
Location: Mt. Yarigadake, Near Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture
General Information: Hakuba Yari Onsen Goya (白馬 鑓 温泉 小屋) aka Hakuba Yari Onsen Hut is a natural onsen right in the middle of the Hakuba Yarigatake mountain range in the Northern Alps. The only way to get there is a 5-hour climb all the way up to 2,100 meters above sea level. While the hike isn’t too dangerous or too steep and can be done by beginners, you definitely need to be prepared and can’t head out without proper hiking gear.
Onsen in the Northern Alps: Hakuba Yari Onsen is a natural sulfur hot spring with superb views of the Hida Mountains. At an elevation of 2,100 meters above sea level, it is one of the highest onsens in all of Japan. The hot spring facilities feature an Ashiyu, a women-only indoor bath, and a unisex outdoor bath. From 20:00 – 21:00 the open-air bath is exclusively for women, though, and men can use the indoor bath instead. I am not the only one who thinks that this onsen is one of the coolest in all of Japan, right?
Season: The best season for hiking is from late-July to mid-September. In 2020, the hut might open later than usual because of the renovation work of the hot spring. You will find the exact dates on their webpage.
Access: 5-hour hike from Sarukura, one of Hakuba’s climbing trail entrances, and the summit of Mount Shriouma. Sarukaru is a 30-minute bus drive from Hakuba. For safety reasons, you should arrive at the mountain hut before 4 pm.
Price: 500円 (about $5 or 5€). Staying overnight at the hut will cost 7,500円 (about $68 or 60€) per person without meals or up to 11,000円 (about $100 or 89€) per person with dinner and breakfast. When you check-in you can also order a lunch box for the next day for an additional 1,300円 (about $12 or 11€).
3. Mikurigaike Onsen (Northern Alps)
Location: Murodo, Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Toyama Prefecture
General Information: Mikurigaike Onsen (みくりが池 温泉) is located in Murodo and is the highest hot spring in Japan at an altitude of 2,410 meters. Murodo is the peak of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route that leads from Toyama Prefecture to Nagano Prefecture through the Tateyama Mountain Range of Japan’s Northern Alps. It is most famous for its snow corridor that can get up to 20 meters high in April, but its hiking trails are at least as beautiful, especially from late September until early October when the autumn colors are at their best.
Onsen in the Northern Alps: This onsen’s natural hot spring water comes directly from the Jigokudani, which means Hell Valley in English. Unfortunately, there is no rotenburo, but from the gender-separated indoor onsen baths, you can see Mikurigaike Pond and the Dainichi Mountain range. As a day-tripper, you can take a bath from 9:00 – 16:00 o’clock. Staying guests can soak in the hot spring any time they want except during the 1-hour cleaning time in the morning.
Season: From mid-April, until mid-June, you can see Tateyama’s snow corridor, while from late June until mid-October you can go hiking. In winter Murodo is not accessible.
Access: 12 – 15 minutes from Murodo Bus Terminal along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. From Toyama it takes about 3 hours to get to Murodo, from Omachi in Nagano Prefecture it takes about 2.5 hours.
Price: 800円 (about $7 or 7€). An overnight stay is possible from about 10,050円 (about $91 or 81€) per person. Dinner, buffet-style breakfast, and bathing tax are all included.
4. Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan (Southern Alps)
Location: Nishiyama Onsen, Near Fujinomiya, Yamanashi Prefecture
General Information: Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan (西山温泉 慶雲館) is a Japanese hot spring inn that holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s most historical inn. It was founded in 705 AD and is located in Japan’s Southern Alps at the foot of the Akaishi Mountains. While it is not the best base for hiking or sightseeing it offers one of the most traditional ryokan experiences in all of Japan.
Onsen near the Southern Alps: The onsen ryokan has 2 different indoor bathing facilities with mountain views called Hikou Springs and Sekifu Spring. You will also find a mountain stream outdoor bath and a wooden observatory rotenburo. The onsen facilities are gender-separated and alternated each day, so if you stay overnight you can soak in all of them. This hot spring is also known as “Bijin no Yu” – one of the “Pretty Women Onsen” that are especially good for the skin.
Private Onsen: Keiunkan also features 2 huge Kashikiri (rentable private hot springs) that are big enough for a whole group of people. The beautiful private open-air baths offer river views of the Haya River. If you choose one of the more spacious rooms you will also have a free-flowing private open-air bath in your room.
Access: The nearest station, JR Minobu Station, is about 1.5 hours away. You have to transfer to a bus bound for Narada and get off at Nishiyama Hot Spring-mae. According to the onsen’s webpage, Mt. Fuji is about 2.5 hours away. From Kawaguchiko Station you can get to Minobu Station in 2.5 hours, while Fujinomiya Station is about 1 hour away.
Price: Overnight stay from 20,000円 (about $185 or 164€)
5. Takamagahara Onsen (Northern Alps)
Location: Deep in Japan’s Northern Alps, Toyama Prefecture
General Information: Takamagahara Onsen (高天原温) is the most remote hot spring in Japan. It is nestled deep in the mountains and can only be reached if you embark on a 4-day hiking round-trip through the Chubu Sangaku National Park and Japan’s Northern Alps. Be warned that this is not a hike you should choose to do as a beginner. Besides strength and stamina, you also need to be able to read and forecast the mountain weather. But if you get to the onsen, you will be rewarded with a small milky blue hot spring bath.
Onsen deep in the Northern Alps: The onsen has covered baths for each gender and a mixed outdoor bath. As you can see this onsen does not offer the most luxurious onsen experience, but I am sure that is exactly what you are looking for, right? Surrounded by only rocks, alpine trees, the sound of nature, and a few yellow plastic buckets, you can dip into the natural open-air hot spring bath 2,100 meters above sea level and revitalize for the intense 2-day hike back to the civilization.
Season: Hiking is possible from somewhen in July to late October. The opening dates of the mountain huts differ each year depending on the weather.
Access: 2-day hike (40 kilometers) through the Chubu-Sangaku National Park and the Hida Mountain Range. The onsen lies after the Kurobe River in between Mt. Suisho and Mt. Akaushi. To get to the trailhead you have to take a bus from Toyama Station to Oritate. Make sure to reserve in advance and take the bus that leaves at around 6 o’clock in the morning in Toyama.
Price: 300円 (about $3 or 3€) for non-staying guests. Staying guests can enter for free. An overnight stay at Takamagahara Hut is about 10,000円 (about $92 or 81€).
Website: www.facebook.com/taroudairakoya (Facebook only)
6. Komakusa No Yu (Central Alps)
Location: Hayataro Onsen, Near Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture
General Information: Komakusa No Yu Hot Spring (こまくさ の 湯) is a local hot spring spa at the foot of Japan’s Central Alps. It is really close to the Kiso Moutain Range and the Komagatake Ropeway that will bring you right up to Senjojiki Cirque – one of the most scenic spots in the Central Alps. If you want to get to the summit of Mt. Kiso-Komagatake, the highest peak in the Kiso Mountain Range, it will take you about 2 hours from the cirque. There is also a 1-hour trail around the cirque with beautiful views of Japan’s Central Alps. It is also possible to hike up to the cirque, but it will take 6 – 8 hours.
Onsen near the Central Alps: Komakusa No Yu is a hot spring day spa and one of the 10 onsens of the Hayataro Hot Spring Village. Both of its outdoor baths have views of the alps and the indoor bathing facilities include a herb bath, a jacuzzi, and a sauna. Bathing is possible from 10:00 – 21:00 o’clock, except for the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of a month. If you are looking for an onsen to stay overnight I would recommend Nagomi No Yuyado Nakayama. They have really nice cypress baths.
Access: This is a little bit tricky. The nearest stations Otagiri Station and Komagane Station are 4 kilometers away. The easiest way seems to be a bus from JR Kawagishi Station that will bring you to Chuodo Komagane Inter Change. From there it is a 34-minute walk to the onsen.
Price: 610円 (about $6 or 5€)
Website: www.komakusanoyu.com (Japanese only)
7. Renge Onsen Rotenburo (Northern Alps)
Location: Mt. Shirouma, Itoigawa, Niigata Prefecture
General Information: Renge Onsen Rotenburo (蓮華温泉露天風呂) is an open-air bath in the Northern Alps that belongs to Shirouma-dake Renge Hot Springs Lodge. The lodge makes for a good day-trip but it is also a good base for the hiking trails to Mount Shirouma and Mount Asahi. In early spring you can enjoy skiing in this area.
Onsen in the Northern Alps: Located at an altitude of 1,475 meters this beautiful mountain onsen does not only offer spectacular views of the Japanese Alps but is also easily accessible for day-trippers. The cool thing is that this onsen has several outdoor baths and you can do an easy Onsen Meguri hike that will take you to all 4 rotenburo. As a non-staying guest, you can bathe here from 10:00 – 16:00 o’clock, staying guests can soak whenever they want and experience the special “Starry Sky Open-Air Bath”. All of the outdoor baths are mixed-gender.
Season: The lodge is usually open from the middle of March until the end of October.
Access: The onsen is 22 kilometers away from the nearest station JR Hiraiwa Station on the JR Oito Line. From the middle of July until the middle of October there is an infrequent bus service available that will bring you to the lodge.
Price: 800円 (about $8 or 7€). An overnight stay at the lodge costs about 10,000円 (about $92 or 81€) per night.
Website: www.rengeonsen.main.jp (Japanese only)
8. Shin-Hotaka Onsen Yamano Hotel (Northern Alps)
Location: Okuhida, Near Takayama, Gifu Prefecture
General Information: Shin-Hotaka Onsen Yamano Hotel (新穂高温泉 山のホテル) is an onsen hotel in Okuhida Hot Spring Village. Okuhida is famous for its scenic outdoor onsen baths with views of Japan’s Northern Alps. There are actually 5 different onsen towns with Hirayu being the largest and oldest. Another highlight is the Shinhotaka Ropeway, the first double-decker gondola in Japan. The views from the 2,150-meter high observation deck are breathtaking.
Onsen in the Northern Alps: The hotel’s onsen facilities are some of the most renowned in the region. It features several huge outdoor baths right next to the Kamatagawa River and with grand views of Mount Yari. Most of its baths are mixed, but there is a women-only open-air bath, and a private bath. The outdoor bath with the most beautiful view is mixed, though. But women can rent a bath towel which they can wear in the bath. The indoor baths are gender-separated.
Private Onsen: The private open-air baths can be rented for just 1,000円 (about $9 or 8€) but bathing time is only 30 minutes.
Access: Only by bus or car. From Takayama Station take the Nohi Bus bound for Shin-Hotaka Onsen and get off at Shin-Hotaka Onsen Yamano Hotel-mae bus stop (about 1.5 hours. From Tokyo, you can take the train until Matsumoto and then transfer to a bus bound for Hirayu Onsen / Shin-Hotaka.
Price: Overnight stay from about 15,000円 (about $139 or 122€) per night.
Bonus: 2 More Onsen in the Japanese Alps
Shin-Hotaka Hot Spring Yarimikan – This onsen is another really beautiful onsen located in Okuhida. It is as gorgeous as the Yamano Hotel. There are mixed baths and a women-only bath. The indoor onsen facilities are gender-separated and have stunning views.
Kamikochi Onsen Hotel – Kamikochi is one of the most popular hiking and outdoor resorts in the Northern Japan Alps, so I have to mention it in this post. The onsen hotel is located in Nagano Prefecture about 2 kilometers further south of the Kamikochi bus terminal and Kappabashi Bridge.