It’s easy to get caught up in the neon lights, pachinko parlours and lively shopping scenes of Dōtonbori and Shinsekai. However, to experience Osaka as it once was, visit one of the city’s ancient onsen.
People have been talking about Osaka’s onsen since AD 700 when the city’s Arima Onsen was immortalised in one of Japan’s classical tomes. If you are visiting Osaka, what better way to complete your travels than by engaging in onsen bathing, one of the oldest-recorded Osakan rituals? Onsen bathing has long been a purifying ritual in Shintoism (Japan’s indigenous religion), as well as a health-giving practice. Due to Osaka’s high concentration of hot springs, many Shinto priests and even royalty have passed through to soak in the geothermal baths.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Whether you’re looking for ‘gold water’ dips, saltwater soaks or rubber duck baths, Osaka has onsen to match – Culture Trip has picked the best.
This onsen is an hour outside downtown Osaka, in the small town of Arima, an Edo-period settlement that feels like a time capsule from early Japan. Located in the heart of verdant mountains and hot springs, its baths have a history spanning more than 1,000 years. Arima Onsen is one of the oldest bathing sites in all of Japan and is mentioned in historical texts such as the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan), which dates back to AD 720 and is the second-oldest book in the Japanese language. It offers travellers two kinds of bathing: the ‘silver water’ bath (ginsen) and ‘gold water’ bath (kinsen). The former contains radium and carbonate (good for muscle and joint ailments), while the latter is rich in iron deposits (helpful for muscle tightness). For the ultimate onsen experience, visit Arima Onsen in the spring (cherry blossom season) or autumn when the hillsides surrounding it explode into fiery shades of red and amber.
The seven-storey Spa World Osaka draws inspiration from bathing culture around the globe and incorporates it into one facility. Spend all day at this luxurious spa, alternating between the Italian-inspired Blue Grotto baths, Nordic saunas, Persian pools and, of course, traditional Japanese onsen baths. The milk and honey bath in Spa World’s Blue Grotto room is especially popular and will leave your skin feeling soft and fresh. You can also go for a dip in a mineral-rich mud bath, steam yourself in the Islamic stone bath or Israeli salt sauna, and finish your day off with a few minutes in the Icelandic freezing wind sauna.
Poseidon himself couldn’t have built a better onsen than Saki-no-Yu. Rumoured to be the oldest onsen in Japan, Saki-no-Yu offers open-air bathing (rotenburo) overlooking the grandeur of the Pacific Ocean. People come from towns far and wide to soak in the traditional baths, breathe in the salty air and feel the light spray of the ocean kiss their faces as wave after wave breaks against the side of the baths. Saki-no-Yu is a day trip from Osaka and offers a somewhat poetic hot spring experience cusped on the edge of the sea – fitting for the country’s oldest onsen.
Niji no Yu is a luxurious, modern onsen that features ornate stone walls, marbled floors, rich wood panelling and open-air bathing. One of the onsen’s top features is the rooftop, carbonated baths, where you can soak while enjoying views of Niji no Yu’s very own waterfall. Take a dip in the hot spring or the salt mist stone sauna (women only), and then head up to the egg-shaped rotenburo baths for some fresh air and mineral-rich water.
If you’re looking for an onsen in the heart of Osaka, Nobeha no Yu Tsuruhashi is the perfect bathhouse for you. Enjoy Japanese- and Korean-style hot springs, massages and saunas, along with multiple floors of hot and cold baths and salt scrubs at your disposal. Switch between the open-air and indoor baths before exploring the selection of saunas that range from steam and stone to salt and herbal. An advantage of this onsen is that once you’ve finished your bathing rituals, you can exit to find yourself within walking distance of Dōtonbori and Osaka’s Koreatown.
The rejuvenating water that flows through this onsen is pumped from more than 650 metres (2,133 feet) underground – creating a carbonated potion of mineral-rich water. With six open-air baths encased in a peaceful rooftop garden, this is one of Osaka’s finest onsen for a relaxing evening under the stars. It also has a unique infrared sauna, indoor jet baths and micro-bubble bath. If you work up a post-soak appetite, consider dining at one of the three different restaurants within the same building as the onsen. You can choose between delicacies such as sushi, grilled beef or Osaka’s famous takoyaki.
Kutsurogi-no-Sato Yuraku offers a bathing experience that is likely to leave every visitor smiling. Experience the magic of childhood bathtime all over again by taking a dip in the onsen’s rubber duck tub (a large bath filled with hundreds of yellow rubber ducks) or going for a float in the Dead Sea bath – a pool with such a high concentration of salt that you’ll find yourself floating. This onsen is perfect for playful adults or families with children. And if you or the kids become hungry, its restaurant offers a wide selection of Japanese, European and Chinese food.
The Minoh Onsen Spa Garden is part of Minoh Kanko Hotel but is open to everyone (not just hotel guests). This first-class spa offers open-air bathing in its Sky Bath, which is surrounded by a lush rooftop garden, complete with expansive city views spreading out below. Appropriately nicknamed ‘beauty spring’ (bijin-no-yu), it has naturally carbonated waters that will leave your skin feeling revitalised and vibrant. For the best bathing experience, visit the spa in the evening when you can watch Osaka’s city lights turn on while enjoying your soak. Before you leave, stop by the hotel and enjoy the live jazz performance that’s put on every evening.
This article is an updated version of a story originally created by Brooke Larsen.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.