Mixed-Gender Bathing near Tokyo: Locations and Etiquette

Mareike Dornhege

If you are traveling as a couple and want to bath in a Japanese hot spring together, here are our top picks for mixed-gender onsen close to Tokyo.

Visiting an onsen, a Japanese hot spring, should absolutely be on your Japan bucket list. It is not only incredibly relaxing after a long day of walking or hiking, it is also apparently great for your health—plus many happen to be set among stunning scenery.

One caveat though: it is usually a “ladies to one side, gentlemen to the other” affair. Hot springs are usually separated by gender. Meaning if you are traveling as a couple, there might be no one to ooh and aah with you over this amazing experience—just a group of grandmas or grandpas happily chatting away in a corner of the bath.

So if you are joined at the hip and don’t want to brave nude bathing in Japan without your other half, we tested some hot springs around Tokyo that allow co-ed bathing, yay! But first, some ground rules before jumping into some hot water together au naturel. Or scroll down for the locations throughout Kanto, the region that includes Tokyo and surrounding prefectures.

Mixed-gender onsen: How-to and etiquette

Most Japanese hot springs are either wooden or natural stone baths | Photo by Mareike Dornhege

You can check our general onsen etiquette post here. In this article, let’s concentrate on any additional rules that might apply when you are in a mixed-gender situation.

1. Please note that even though you are bathing together, it still is a strictly no-clothes, nude affair!

2. Some baths that offer konyoku, the Japanese term for mixed-gender hot springs, work in a way where the women have their own bath but can join the men on their side if they are so inclined. There are one-way doors and men cannot enter the women’s side. Other baths might have overall shared facilities, including lockers and showers. If you are unsure, ask or just follow the herd; the staff usually explain when you pay at the reception.

3. Most mixed onsen offer women the opportunity to hop into the hot water while wearing a bathing towel to cover up. If so, said towel will be handed to you at reception. Sorry guys, the men are usually expected to come as they are, but you can hold the small towel that you will also receive at the reception in front of any parts you might want to cover.

4. Needless to say (but we’ll say it anyways for good measure), it is considered impolite to stare others up and down. A mixed onsen is also not the right place to chat people up.

Mixed onsen close to Tokyo

There are no mixed-gender bathhouses in Tokyo as they are banned in the capital, but here are our recommendations for day and weekend trips in the Kanto area surrounding Tokyo.

Shizuoka: Izu Peninsula

The Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture is famous for its beaches and hot springs and the perfect spot for a hot spring weekend trip. Here are three options along the coast. The Izu Peninsula is around 2 to 3 hours from Tokyo and best explored by rental car. All onsen options listed here have free parking available.

Atagawa

Takami Hotel is an old ryokan in the town of Atagawa. There is only one outdoor bath and also just one locker and change room. But the onsen itself is especially beautiful in summer when the trees and vines that are planted around it are in full bloom and colorful flowers drop into the water. The botanical design gives this hot spring a calming, straight-out-of-Eden feel that you can enjoy sitting in the shade of the trees.

Pay at the hotel reception saying that you want to use the rotemburo (outdoor bath), and head downstairs. The price is around ¥1,000 per person for two hours. You can enter with a towel if you want to, but most guests here only use the small onsen towel when they walk around and then submerge themselves.

Name: Takami Hotel
Address: Atagawa, Higashiizu-cho, Kamo-gun, Shizuoka
Website: http://www.takami.yad.jp/ofuro.html

Ito

If you visit only one onsen on the Izu Peninsula, make it this one. The Fujiyoshi Ryokan is located close to Ito city and the Jogasaki Coast that offers spectacular views. Still, it seems to be somewhat of a secret hot spring as it’s never too busy and foreigners rarely make their way here. The owners don’t speak a lick of English, so you might want to look up your phrases in Japanese beforehand.

Gate to the Fujiyoshi hot spring and ryokan | Photo by Mareike Dornhege

This onsen consists of a number of traditional small houses that each contain one bath. You will be given a small basket for your toiletries, towels and a key to access the huts. Each hut has a sign on the door that can be turned from “free” to “occupied”. The baths all have different designs, ranging from traditional Japanese to East-Asian influence. This type of bathing is called kashikiri, which means private rental, so you don’t need to share your bath with others.

When you the small sign place in front of the entrance, reading 貸切中, it means this bath is currently used by someone else | Photo by Mareike Dornhege

The best part: It is only around ¥1,500 per person, which is a real bargain for a private onsen. They also have a ryokan option if you want to stay the night.

Name: Fujiyoshi Onsen
Address: 1305-8 Futo, Ito, Shizuoka
Website: http://www.fujiyoshi.com/izu/onsen/

Shimoda

Senninburo is one of Shimoda’s most popular onsen and is famous for its very large cedar-wood indoor bath, which is actually the largest of its kind in Japan. From here, you can also get to a picturesque outdoor bath, complete with stone lanterns and water cascades. The ladies can grab a key in the change room and enter the male side through a set of double doors, making it a fun experience.

This bathhouse explicitly accepts guests with tattoos and is popular with foreigners. There are signs in English and the receptionists also speak some. It costs ¥1,000 for the day pass or free if you stay overnight.

Name: Sennin Buro Kanaya Ryokan
Address: 114-2 Kochi, Shimoda-shi, Shizuoka
Website: http://kanayaryokan.jp/

Tochigi Prefecture: Nasushiobara

A wooden bath for individual use, called kashikiri in Japanese | Photo by Mareike Dornhege

Nasushiobara is one of Tochigi’s onsen hot spots. Yumori Tanakaya is located a bit out of town in the mountains. The onsen, part of the ryokan, is nestled next to a river. There is a ladies-only bath and the more beautiful mixed bath.

No buildings are around, just trees covering you from outsides views and the river below. They will hand you big colored towels at the reception to cover up. There is a change room for women, but the men have to undress in front of a shelf set next to the bath. If you don’t stay at the ryokan, the day pass is ¥1,500. They offer a shuttle bus from the train station.

Name: Yumori Tanakaya
Address: 6 Shiobara, Nasushiobara, Tochigi
Website: www.tnky.jp

Gunma: Oigami

Gorokaku is one of Gunma’s best-known onsen, so things can get crowded, especially in fall when the leaves change colors. There are three mixed outdoor baths and one ladies-only option. This onsen is also located next to a river and beautifully landscaped. A two-hour pass is ¥1,000 and also has a ryokan option.

Name: Gorokaku Onsen
Address: 602 Tonemachi Oigami, Numata, Gunma
Website: http://www.gorokaku.com/spa.html

Saitama: Arakawamura

Miyako onsen is the easiest getaway from Tokyo as it’s located in the neighboring prefecture of Saitama. There are gender-separate indoor baths and one mixed outdoor bath. The size is rather intimate, but it offers splendid views over a green valley. As this bath is quite a bit cooler than most other onsen, the outdoor bath is closed during the winter months. It’s ¥1,500 for a day pass or free if you stay at the ryokan overnight.

Name: Miyako Ryokan
Address: 77 Arakawa Shiroku, Chichibu, Saitama
Website: http://miyako.chichibu.net/

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Filed under: Things to do
Tags: Bath, Bathing, Co-ed, Couples, Day Trip, Etiquette, Hot Spring, Japan, Kanto, Kashikiri, Konyoku, Mixed Gender, Onsen, Private Onsen, Rental, Weekend Trip
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