When visiting Japan's former capital city, it's natural to want to experience an amazing Kyoto onsen. An onsen is a natural hot spring bath, which I deem to be one of the most relaxing things to do during a Kyoto itinerary. After a long day of sightseeing, nothing beats soaking in a Japanese onsen. Unlike other regions in Japan, Kyoto is not as rich in hot springs, but you can still find epic accommodation in ryokans which offer the ultimate onsen experience. Here are our favourite Kyoto onsen which we recommend.
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Experiencing an onsen in Kyoto is an absolute must and should be added to any Kyoto itinerary. Traditions and culture are deeply rooted in Japan, and even the little thing can seem like a ritual to you. Make sure you familiarise yourself with how to best experience an onsen. The only worry about an onsen in Japan is that once you try it you won't imagine anything nicer and more relaxing than that morning and late night soak in the warm, mineral waters of Japan.
Kyoto's Best Onsen
My first ever onsen experience was in Nikko, Japan. I couldn't believe it how incredibly relaxing soaking in an onsen can be, hence I became sort of addicted. Kyoto onsens are fantastic but like all Japanese hot springs, accommodation in a specific ryokan with hot springs can get a little expensive. This is because visiting onsen are considered a luxury retreat, especially when they are located in the mountains, surrounded by raw nature. You will find many Japanese who take time off and visit some of the most incredible onsen in search of that inner zen we all need.
Onsen in Kyoto area
As already mentioned, Kyoto onsen are not plentiful, but you will be able to find a few more outside of the city area. There are many reasons why you should visit the mountains surrounding Japan's former capital city. Kyoto is blessed with such beautiful nature all around it and surely nothing beats enjoying a lavishing night in a traditional ryokan with open-air air hot spring. This will make your trip worthwhile.
How to enjoy a Kyoto onsen
Enjoying an onsen in Japan is one of the most incredible and liberating experiences. There are, of course, some rules you need to be aware of. Don't worry though, they are very easy to follow. So, here is what you need to do:
Before entering the onsen, you need to thoroughly wash your body. The onsen is not like a bath for cleaning purposes, but it's used for relaxation purposes only. You will see showers just before the onsen area. Wash your whole body with soap then rinse well.
You can use a stool provided to sit down whilst you wash. Make sure you also rinse the stool and the area around you, once you finished.
If you have long hair, make sure you put it up in a bun so it doesn't touch your body.
When entering the onsen, try to be as delicate as possible and try not to splash around.
You may use your towel to cover yourself until you enter the onsen. Don't allow for the towel to touch the water. You can fold the towel and put it over your head whilst bathing. This means you will be entirely naked in the onsen. This is perfectly normal in Japan and have nothing to worry about. Most onsens are gender specific anyway.
Once in the bath, make sure you don't swim. Onsen facilities are for soaking, meditating and contemplating. If your towel slips into the water, remove it immediately and wring it outside the bath, NEVER in the hot springs.
Once you are done soaking, use your towel to wipe off excess water and sweat before entering the locker room.
That's it. You are now ready to enjoy a Kyoto onsen at your earliest convenience. What will you book? A ryokan with hot springs inside or outside of the city? Let me know in the comments section below.