While there are a few natural onsen baths and public bathhouses in Kyoto and Osaka, for a real onsen experience you should visit one of the beautiful onsen towns nearby.
The onsen towns that are the closest to Kyoto and Osaka are Arashiyama Onsen, Ogoto Onsen, and Ako Onsen. Kinosaki Onsen is 2.5 hours away but one of the best and most picturesque onsen towns in the Kansai region. Arima Onsen is one of the oldest hot spring towns and only 1 hour away from Osaka.
Read on to find detailed information about all 12 beautiful onsen towns near Kyoto and Osaka. We will cover general sightseeing information, recommended onsen for day-trippers, and great onsen ryokans if you want to stay for a night or a weekend.
1. Kinosaki Onsen (2.5h from Kyoto)
Location: Kinosaki Onsen, Hyogo Prefecture
General Information: Kinosaki Onsen (城崎温泉) is one of the most scenic and picturesque onsen towns in Japan. It is also the hot spring town with the most tattoo-friendly onsen near Kyoto and Osaka.
The Otagawa River flowing through the center of the town is flanked by green willows and cherry trees and creates the unique atmosphere of this onsen town together with the people strolling around in Yukata and Geta.
Other highlights are the Kinosaki Ropeway, Osen-ji Temple, and unique flavored ice creams like crab miso or crab beer soft serve.
Beautiful Onsen Town Near Kyoto & Osaka: Kinosaki has 7 public bathhouses – each of them with their very own charm. At least one of them is usually closed on weekdays, so if you want to soak in all of them come here on a weekend or even better stay overnight.
You will find numerous onsen ryokan with even more beautiful hot spring baths. Two ryokans I can recommend are Kawaguchiya Kinosaki River Side (川口屋城崎リバーサイドホテル) and the luxurious Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei (西村屋ホテル招月庭).
Access From Kyoto: Hop on the JR Hashidate Limited Express train and you can be in Kinosaki in 2.5 hours (covered by JR Pass).
Access From Osaka: The JR Kounotori Limited Express train will bring you all the way to Kinosaki Onsen in about 3 hours (covered by JR Pass).
2. Arima Onsen (1h from Osaka)
Location: Arima Onsen, Near Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture
General Information: Arima Onsen (有馬温泉) is another famous hot spring town in Kansai and is one of Japan’s 3 ancient springs together with Nanki-Shirahama Onsen in Wakayama Prefecture and Dogo Onsen in Ehime Prefecture. It is also one of the nearest onsen towns from Osaka and Kyoto.
It is nearby Kobe but located on the opposite side of Mount Rokko. With the Rokko-Arima Ropeway, a shuttle bus, and the Rokko Cable Car, you can enjoy a scenic ride that will bring you to the other side of the mountain. If you visit Mount Rokko in October you can also see beautiful autumn colors. The peak season for the autumn leaves is the latter end of the month.
Ancient Onsen Town Near Osaka & Kobe: Arima Onsen is especially famous for the reddish-brown iron spring Kinsen (“Gold Spring”) and the clear carbon spring Ginsen (“Silver Spring”). Hence the name of Arima Onsen’s public baths Kin No Yu, the “Golden Hot Spring”, and Gin No Yu, the “Silver Hot Spring”. They are not the most beautiful onsen baths, but traditional.
More beautiful baths and open-air baths you will find at Arima Grand Hotel (有馬グランドホテル), an onsen hotel that welcomes daytime visitors, and Tocen Goshobo (陶泉 御所坊), Arima’s oldest onsen ryokan that welcomes day-trippers from 11:00 – 14:00. Goshobo’s outdoor baths are gender-separated, but partially so that you can see and talk to your friend or significant other in the other bath.
Access From Osaka: The trip does only take about 1 hour but requires a few transfers. First, get from Osaka Station to Sannomiya Station (Tokaido-Sanyo Line, Kobe Line, etc). Transfer to the Seishin-Yamate Line get off at Tanigami Station and hop on the Kobe Dentetsu-Arima Line Semi-Express that will bring you to Arimaguchi Station. Switch to a local train (same line) bound for Arima Onsen and get off at Arima Onsen Station. The JR Pass only covers the trip until the first station Sannomiya.
Access From Kyoto: From Kyoto Station, it takes about 1:15 hours to get to Arima Onsen. Take the Shinkansen to Shin-Kobe Station, transfer to the Hokushin Line, and get off at Tanigami Station. Same as from Osaka transfer to the Kobe-Dentetsu-Arima Line Semi-Express, get off at Arimaguchi Station, switch to the local train bound for Arima Onsen, and get off at Arima Onsen Station. The JR Pass covers the fee until Shin-Kobe.
3. Nanki Shirahama Onsen (3h from Osaka)
Location: Shirahama, Wakayama Prefecture
General Information: Nanki Shirahama Onsen (南紀白浜温泉) or just Shirahama Onsen is another one of Japan’s ancient hot spring towns with a history of more than 1,300 years. Its beach, Shirahama Beach, is also considered one of Japan’s most beautiful sand beaches.
Besides soaking in all the beautiful beach onsens with ocean view you should also visit the Sandanbeki Dokutsu Cave. The cave stretches about 36 meters underground and was used by pirates to hide their sips during the Heian period. Now there is a shrine inside the cave.
Ancient Beach Onsen Town Near Osaka: Saki No Yu (崎の湯) is the only bath left of Shirahama’s historic 7 Yuzaki-Nanayu public baths and is considered the oldest onsen bath in Japan. The gender-separated outdoor bath is located right next to the ocean and offers spectacular views.
Nowadays you can find a lot of luxurious onsen hotels with infinity onsen pools in Shirahama. Infinito Hotel & Spa Nanki Shirahama (INFINITO HOTEL ＆ SPA 南紀白浜), for example, is an extravagant accommodation befitting the emperor and royals with exceptionally beautiful modern onsen facilities.
But a more realistic accommodation is probably Grampus Sea (グランパスSea) with nice open-air stone and wooden onsen baths.
Access From Osaka: Take the direct Kuroshio Limited Express Train to Shirahama Station and transfer to a local bus to get to Shirahama Beach and most of the onsens. To get to Saki No Yu hop on the bus bound for Sandanbeki (the cave) and get off at Yuzaki bus stop.
Access From Kyoto: From Kyoto, it takes about 4 hours to get to Shirahama Onsen. Take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka Station and transfer to the Kuroshio Limited Express Train that will bring you all the way to Shirahama Station. From there continue with the local buses to your onsen destination.
4. Arashiyama Onsen (30min from Kyoto)
Location: Arashiyama, Near Kyoto Kyoto Prefecture
General Information: I am pretty sure that all of you know Arashiyama. It is one of the most famous and popular sightseeing spots near Kyoto and famous for its bamboo forest. However, less of you may know that Arashiyama Onsen (嵐山温泉) is actually a real onsen town with a natural spring. A small one, though.
Since I’m going to write another blog post about all the amazing things to do in Arashiyama in the future, I will just mention the Ashiyu you can find on the platform of the Randen Arashiyama Station near the Kimono Forest.
Luxurious Onsen Town Near Kyoto: Kyoto Arashiyama Onsen Ryokan Hanaikada (嵐山温泉 彩四季の宿 花筏) and Fufu No Yu Onsen (風風の湯) are the onsen facilities I recommend for a quick soak.
While Kadensho (花伝抄) is one of the more affordable onsen ryokans you will find in Arashiyama in case you are planning to stay for the night.
All the details about the onsen bath plus 5 other hot springs you can find in my “Best Onsen Near The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Kyoto” post.
Access From Kyoto: Take the JR San-In Line and get off at Saga-Arashiyama Station (about 11 minutes). From there you can walk to the bamboo forest and the onsen ryokan
Access From Osaka: From Osaka, I recommend using the cheap Hankyu Line, even though it is not covered by the JR Pass. Get to Osaka-Umeda and take the Hankyu-Kyoto Line to Katsura Station. Then, transfer to the Hankyu-Arashiyama Line and get off at Arashiyama Station. This station is closer to the Katsura River and Togetsu-kyo Bridge. By taking the Hankyu Line, it takes a bit less than 1 hour to get to Arashiyama from Osaka.
5. Ako Onsen (2h from Osaka)
Location: Ako, Near Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture
General Information: Ako Onsen or Akou Onsen (赤穂温泉) is a hot spring town located on a small peninsula in between Okayama and Himeji. From most of the onsen and onsen ryokans in this hot spring town, you can overlook the beautiful Seto Inland Sea and enjoy a gentle sea breeze during your soak.
Nearby you can find the Ako Castle Ruins and the Hyogo Prefectural Ako Seaside Park with a small amusement park called Ako Waku Waku Rando (Ako exciting land). In the park is also a science museum where you can make your own salt.
Himeji and Okayama are about 1 hour away.
Ocean View Onsen Town Near Osaka & Himeji: You won’t find many onsen ryokans in this small and quiet onsen town, but some very beautiful ones. Ginpaso (銀波荘), for example, is one of Kansai’s highest-rated beach onsen ryokan and they welcome daytime visitors. From the gender-separated open-air baths, you have panoramic views over the Seto Inland Sea and colorful sunsets.
Donkairou (呑海楼) and Taioukan (対鴎舘) are 2 other onsen ryokan with beautiful views and rotenburo. They also welcome day-trippers, but Donkairou only in combination with a meal plan. A cheaper onsen hotel with good onsen facilities but no ocean view is Ako Park Hotel (赤穂パークホテル).
Access From Osaka: The most convenient way is to get on one of the Tokaido-Sanyo Line Rapids bound for Banshu-Ako that continues as Sanyo-Line and Ako-Line until Banshu-Ako Station. So you only have to transfer once at this Station. Continue by local bus to the onsen town. If the Tokaido-Sanyo Line doesn’t continue you usually have to transfer at Himeji Station. It takes about 2:00 – 2:15 hours from Osaka Station.
Access From Kyoto: If you have a JR Pass take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen until Aioi Station and transfer to the JR Ako Line bound for Banshu-Ako. At Banshu-Ako Station get on one of the local buses bound for Ako Onsen. For Ginpaso, for example, you have to get off at Misaki Bus Stop after a 17-minute bus ride. The one-way trip takes about 2 hours from Kyoto Station.
6. Wakura Onsen (3.5h from Kyoto)
Location: Wakura Onsen, Noto Peninsula, Ishikawa Prefecture
General Information: Wakura Onsen (和倉温泉) is an onsen town that can look back to a history of 1,200 years. It is one of the top tourist attractions on the Noto Peninsula and Kagaya, one of the onsen ryokans, has been one of the top inns in Japan for year after year.
Besides the onsen, there are not that many amazing tourist attractions to be honest. You can take a look at the morning market or get a rental bicycle and explore the city. In summer there is a firework display with a shell that reaches a diameter of 650 metes.
Luxurious Beach Onsen Town Near Kyoto: Wakura Onsen Souyu (和倉温泉 総湯) is a public onsen bath with indoor and outdoor baths that opened in 1641. You can find it right in the town center and it is easily recognizable because of the free Ashiyu right next to it.
For one of the best ryokan experiences in all of Japan, you have to stay at Kagaya (加賀屋). Great hospitality and service and an amazing ocean view from the open-air onsen bath, but as everything awesome in Japan it comes with a hefty price tag.
Hotel Kaibo (ホテル海望) is a great and way more affordable onsen hotel. They also welcome daytime visitors.
Access From Kyoto: Take the Thunderbird Limited Express Train bound for Kanazawa. At Kanazawa Station transfer to the IR Ishikawa Railway Line and take the Noto-Kagaribi Limited Express bound for Wakura Onsen and get off at the same-named station.
7. Biwako Ogoto Onsen (30 min from Kyoto)
Location: Ogoto Onsen, Lake Biwako, Shiga Prefecture
General Information: Biwako Ogoto Onsen (びわ湖おごと温泉) or just Ogoto Onsen is one of the closest onsen towns to Kyoto and Osaka. It is located on the western shores of Lake Biwako, Japan’s largest freshwater lake, and has a reputable history of 1,200 years. The onsen town is so close to Kyoto that its perfect for a day trip or even just a half-day trip.
But in case you want to spend more time at the lake, you can head further north to see Shirahige Shrine, Shiga’s floating shrine gate. Or you check out Hikone Castle and Okishima Cat Island on Lake Biwa’s eastern shores. Hikone is one of my favorite castles together with Himeji and Matsumoto Castle.
Lake Onsen Town Near Kyoto: There are about 10 onsen ryokan and onsen hotel that get their hot spring water from a simple but highly alkaline thermal spring. This type of hot spring is good for the skin and is reputed to have a lot of beauty effects and health benefits. Spa Resort Agaryanse (スパリゾート雄琴) is a nice public bath with Ashiyu and a huge variety of indoor pools and open-air baths. They also have a cute separate spa for families with toddlers.
Sato-yu Mukashibanashi Yuzanso (里湯昔話 雄山荘) is my personal favorite of all the onsens I have seen in Ogoto because in spring cherry blossoms are blooming right next to the outdoor bath. Just bathing is not possible, though, you need to book a lunch or dinner plan in order to use the onsen facilities.
Access From Kyoto: There are many local trains on the Tokaido-Sanyo Line bound for Omi-Imazu that continue as the Kosei Line and bring you to Ogoto Onsen Station without transfer. Travel time just 20 minutes from Kyoto Station.
Access From Osaka: From Osaka Station take the Tokaido-Sanyo Line Special Rapid to Nagahama and transfer at Yamashina Station to the Kosei Line. Get off at Ogoto Onsen Station. It takes about 1 hour from Osaka.
8. Amanohashidate Onsen (2h from Kyoto)
Location: Amanohashidate, Kyoto Prefecture
General Information: Amanohashidate is a sandbank covered with pine trees that spans over the Miyazu Bay and is one of Japan’s 3 most celebrated views. The name literally translates as the “Bridge of Heaven” and was one of the most memorable parts of my journey when I traveled through Japan’s 47 Prefectures. Unfortunately, back then I had no idea that this is also known as Amanohoshidate Onsen (天橋立温泉).
Cute Onsen Town Near Kyoto: Since I didn’t know back then I haven’t been to any of the onsens but after some research, I found these really pretty onsens. Next time I am in Amanohashidate I will definitely soak in the onsen baths of Amanohashidate Hotel (天橋立ホテル). They welcome daytime visitors and you can see the sandbank from their open-air bath.
Two other onsen ryokans you might want to check out are Monjusou Shourotei (文珠荘 松露亭) and Hotel Kitanoya (ホテル北野屋).
Access From Kyoto: The JR Hashidate Limited Express can bring you all the way to Fukuchiyama Station. Transfer to the Tango Relay Limited Express bound for Amino and get off at Amanohashidate Station. The Tango Relay Line is not covered by the JR Pass. Travel time: 2:17 hours.
Access From Osaka: Take the Kounotori Limited Express bound for Fukuchiyama Station, transfer to the Tango Relay Line, and get off at Amanoshidate Station. Travel Time: 2.5 hours.
9. Yuuhigaura Onsen (3.5h from Kyoto)
Location: Yuuhigaura-Kitsu Onsen, Tango Peninsula, Kyoto Prefecture
General Information: Yuuhigaura Onsen (夕日ヶ浦温泉) is a seaside hot spring resort located on the west side of the Tango Peninsula. The peninsula is an unspoiled nature paradise north of Kyoto with hot springs, sand beaches, and rocky cliffs. Beach season and swimming in the ocean are possible from late May until late October with July and August being the peak season.
Not many foreign tourists know about this place and so it is a nice change of pace from the bustling and overcrowded tourist cities Kyoto and Osaka.
Beach Onsen Town Near Kyoto: As the name Yuuhigaura suggests, this onsen town is famous for its sunsets. Yuuhi literally means “setting sun” and it is definitely the best time to visit this hot spring town. Hanayumi Onsen (花ゆうみ) is a kids-friendly super public bath with modern open-air and indoor baths. More traditional onsen baths you can find if you stay overnight at Kasyouen Hotel (佳松苑) or Ichiboukan (夕日浪漫 一望館).
Access From Kyoto: The fastest way is to take the Hashidate Limited Express to Miyazu Station and continue with the Kyoto Tango Railway Miyatoyo Line (you can not use the JR Pass here). Get off at Yuhigaura-Kitsuonsen Station and walk or take a local bus to your hot spring or onsen ryokan. When I checked google maps it took 3:10 from Tokyo.
Access From Osaka: In Osaka hop on the Kounotori Limited Express bound for Kinosaki Onsen and transfer to the Kyoto Tango Railway Miyatoyo Line aka Tantetsu Miyamai-Miyatoyo Line at Toyo-Oka Station. Yuhigaura-Kitsuonsen Station is the 5 stops. The whole trip from Osaka took 3:38.
10. Katayamazu Onsen (2.5h from Kyoto)
Location: Kaga Onsen, Near Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
General Information: Katayamazu Onsen (片山津温泉) is one of the 4 smaller hot spring towns that are more commonly known as Kaga Onsen Hot Spring Village (加賀温泉郷).
The other 3 Awazu Onsen, Yamashiro Onsen, and Yamanaka Onsen are also less than 1 hour away from Kaga Onsen Station. For sightseeing, I would do the short trip to Kanazawa, because it is just half an hour away, and always worth a visit.
Quiet Onsen Town Near Kyoto & Kanazawa: Katayamazu Onsen is located at the shores of Lake Shibayama and it is also very close to the ocean. So a lot of the onsen here have lake views. The public spa called Katayamazu Onsen Souyu (片山津温泉 総湯) is a modern and of course gender-separated onsen overlooking the lake and a forest.
Kaga Kanko Hotel (加賀観光ホテル) is a hot spring theme-park with more than 22 different bathtubs. From traditional stone baths to pottery bathtubs you will find everything here. It is a good and affordable onsen hotel to stay overnight, but you can also just come for a soak and head to another accommodation in Kaga Onsen or Kanazawa.
Access From Kyoto: It is so easy! Just catch the Thunderbird Limited Express Train bound for Kanazawa and get off at Kaga Onsen Station (1:48 minutes). From Kaga take a local bus and get off at Katayamazu Hot Spring bus stop (11 minutes). The total travel time will be about 2:19 or 2:33 hours.
Access From Osaka: Same for Osaka, just get on the Thunderbird, get off at Kaga Onsen, which is the stop right before Kanazawa, and transfer to the local bus. The trip takes a bit longer about 2:46 hours.
11. Dorogawa Onsen (2.5h from Osaka)
Location: Dorogawa Onsen, Nara Prefecture
General Information: Dorogawa Onsen (洞川温泉) is a hidden hot spring gem in Nara’s sacred mountains located at an altitude of 820 meters. It is the starting point of the Omine Mountain Range and the holy mountain Mount Omime, a famous training ground for monks known for its 3 tests of courage and unfortunately off-limits for women.
In summer you will see many Shugendo mountain ascetics and pilgrims in the hot spring town. Especially in early August when the Dorogawa Gyoja Festival takes place. And in and around Dorogawa Onsen you will find many Shinto Shrines and a limestone cave.
Hidden Onsen Town Near Osaka & Nara: There are only a handful of onsen ryokans in this onsen town. Dorogawa Onsen Center (洞川温泉センター) is a public hot spring facility with indoor and outdoor baths.
For an overnight stay, I recommend Hanaya Tokubei (花屋徳兵衛). This is a beautiful wooden onsen ryokan featuring an indoor bath a semi-outdoor bath with a garden view and a cool statue. Staying guests can use the onsen facilities 24 hours and there are also private onsen baths that can be rented for an additional fee.
Access From Osaka: Take the Kintetsu Limited Express from Osaka-Abenobashi Station (near Tennoji) to Shimoichiguchi Station. From there it is a 1.5-hour bus ride to the onsen town. The bus stop is called Dorogawa Hot Spring Bus Stop. The whole one-way trip takes about 2.5 – 3 hours depending on where you are in Osaka.
Access From Kyoto: Get on the Kintetsu Limited Express Train at Kyoto Station and transfer to the Limited Express Train bound for Yoshino (also Kintetsu Line) at Kashiharajingu-Mae Station. 5 stops later you will be at Shimoichiguchi Station and continue by bus to Dorogawa Onsen.
12. Gero Onsen (3h from Kyoto)
Location: Gero Onsen, Gifu Prefecture
General Information: Gero Onsen (下呂温泉) is often considered one of Japan’s 3 best hot spring towns and famous for the high quality of its hot springs. Throughout the city, you will find free Ashiyu, a lot of public onsen baths, and onsen ryokans. You can also visit Osenji Temple and Gassho Village.
Famous Onsen Town Near Kyoto & Nagoya: The best way to enjoy Gero Onsen is to get a Yumeguri Tegata (wooden onsen hopping pass) and dip into as many onsens as you can.
There is also a free outdoor onsen bath right next to the river. It is called Gero Onsen Funsenchi Outdoor Hot Spring. Most people only use it as Ashiyu but you can wear a swimsuit and soak in it, too. It is really open-air, though, no covers.
Some of the most beautiful baths you will find at Yunoshimakan (湯之島館). This onsen is also renowned as one of the best beauty onsen you can find in Japan. Hotel Kusakabe Armeria (ホテルくさかべアルメリア) has more modern onsen baths with beautiful mountain views.
With way too many awesome onsen baths and ryokans, it is really hard to just recommend one or two, so stay tuned for an in-depth post about Gero Onsen’s beautiful hot spring baths and ryokans.
Access From Kyoto: Take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen to Nagoya and transfer to the JR Hida Line. With the Limited Express Train bound for Hida, you can get to Gero Onsen in about 2:40 from Kyoto Station. Get off at Gero Station walk towards the river and you will the first onsen.
More Onsen Towns in Japan
Onsen Towns Near Tokyo: Hakone Onsen and Kawaguchiko Onsen with views of Mount Fuji. Kusatsu Onsen, a tattoo-friendly onsen town where you can stroll around in Yukata and Geta. Plus a few beautiful onsen towns that are less than 90 minutes away from Tokyo.
Onsen Towns in Hokkaido: Noboribetsu is Hokkaido’s most famous onsen town. In the south, you have the beach onsen town Yunokawa Onsen. Near Sapporo, you have Jozankei Onsen and all the way to the east you can find Utoro Onsen overlooking the drift ice right next to Shiretoko National Park.