Flakes fall around you. Steam drifts into the air. Try one of these onsen baths where you can bathe among Hokkaido’s nature.
The heat of the mineral-rich, geothermal water is believed to cure aches and stimulateinitiate deep healing. Although the measurable effectiveness is not quite yet proven or understood, we don’t really need more reason to cozy up in some hot springs.
Apart from the best snow records in the world, the mountainous island of Hokkaido also has room for some of the finest, purest onsen (hot springs), a treasured tradition and pastime of Japan, with more than 19 onsen areas in Annupuri alone. With some planning ahead, you should be able to visit a few of these hot springs when you are in Niseko this powder season (or essentially any time of the year).
Part of a boutique Japanese inn in Annupuri, Yugokorotei has an intimate outdoor onsen area that lets you sit in hot natural spring water under a wood pergola, undisturbed to feel the gentle breeze making leaves fidget in the trees around you. A mere 10-minute drive from Hirafu, the inn is generally pretty quiet – chances are you may get the whole pool to yourself.
In stark contrast to the growing slew of designer onsens in Hirafu, Iroha is also a traditional Japanese style outdoor hot bath. Surrounded by pine trees and fresh air, Iroha is within walking distance to the Annupuri resort.
The outdoor onsen contain 210mg of silicic acid, sodium, and hydrogen carbonate (said to be good for the skin by helping it shed dead cells). Smelling the sulphur in the light-yellow water, it can feel like you are literally soaking up the benefits. The mineral rich water is naturally circulated, so no filtration of chlorine is required as new water constantly comes direct from the spring.
Japanese people have loved onsens since ancient times. Koikawa is the oldest onsen in Niseko, having opened for over 117 years now (since 1899!), and there may be no more apt place to experience this age-old tradition than this historic outdoor bath.
Long-popular among the locals, the bath is fed with spring water straight from Konbu onsen, which is known for its rich metasilicic acid content, making Koikawa another authentic onsen for pretty skin.
Koikawa is slightly out of the way, about a 10-minute drive from Annupuri Ski Resort, and 20 minutes from Hirafu.
Designed as a modern Japanese retreat, Mokunosho occupies a quiet corner at the foot of Mount Yotei. It is one of the more luxury ryokans in the vicinity of Hirafu (still takes some driving), loved for serving high-end kaiseki cuisine and the urban chic onsens, which are open to the public.
The outdoor bath enjoys a beautiful location on the side of a creek, which would serenade you with the sound of rushing water and birds chirping through summer. After a good soak, many choose to hang around in the comfy bar area fitted with leather couches and a fireplace just to read and relax. A good selection of whiskey is served here, so if you are in the mood for some sampling, go for the tasting menu!
A proper old-school, traditional Japanese hot spring with a “sentō” bathhouse and multiple outdoor baths, Yukichichibu is a funny name to say. This community-run onsen in Chisenupuri is essentially an escape from escapes, about a 30-minute drive from Hirafu, nestled in the forest. It has been around since the 60’s, and the old building was recently demolished and replaced with a new facility, so the amenities are brand new and modern.
There are 11 spacious outdoor baths. The male and female baths rotate daily so hopefully next time you are there, you get the side with the mud bath, where you can mudpack your entire body like a kid again. Another special feature is that you can buy beer at the vending machines near the reception, and consume your brew while soaking up!
Accommodation nearby: Sekka Back Country Chalet (Which also has a private natural hot spring in the house)
Kanronomori is a modern addition to the Konbu Onsen area where Koikawa is also located. Although the sleek, minimally designed baths (both indoor and outdoor) are on the smaller side, it is one of the few hotels that lets you rent a private onsen by the hour. After all, you are here to relax and not be disturbed by the masses.
The outdoor baths on both sides enjoy amazing view of the natural surroundings, and the male and female sides are switched daily, so everyone gets to experience both scenes.
Niseko Weiss is a countryside hotel that’s out of the way and in the woods of Hanazono. The 46-year-old retreat features an authentic bathhouse on the ground floor, a common bath house, indoor baths and outdoor rock open-pit style baths finished with nostalgic wooden pergolas, plus another cypress open-air bath.
It provides a good quiet spot to truly soak up nature and the views are gorgeous all seasons. Self-driving is strongly recommended as it is 20 minutes from Hirafu.
The Vale Onsen + Pool
If you are looking for a good soak après ski (or just want to have the afternoon off skiing to rest out muscles), the Vale Onsen is as convenient as it gets location-wise. It is a sleek, modern indoor bath with a swanky designer feel, though the size is on the smaller side. The mineral rich water flows through the bath and back into the ground, where it is filtered naturally by stone-y subsoils, and makes its way back into the reservoirs that feed the onsen – i.e. the Kakenagashi cycle of natural filtration (continuous flow from source). heated outdoor pool with ski-side views, and a compact sauna complete a pampering experience.
During peak holidays the onsen/spa gets very busy, so save your visit for the shoulder season when there is a better chance to truly enjoy the urban retreat.
Website: The Vale Niseko
Ryokans are essentially Japanese-style inns and Zaborin takes it to a whole new level of luxury. There are a total of 15 private villas and each has its own private onsen baths fed with pure spring water from a hot spring that runs as deep as 1km into the ground, a luxury exclusive for guests’ use only.
They designed the circulation in a way that the flow is fast enough to ensure the bathtubs are filled with 100% fresh water, thus no chemical treatment is used in the filtering process.
The hot spring also provides sustainable geothermal energy that powers under-floor heating throughout the wood-clad residences, and melts the snow in the driveway.
Nestled in the woods of Hanazono, the resort is especially ideal as a side trip during ski vacations, with just enough to do for a couple days, and the perfect environment for meditation and peace.
Hilton Niseko Village
The signature feature of The Hilton Niseko Village Onsen is the open views of Mount Yotei in the spacious outdoor bath. Mountains and pristine greenery surround the hotel. Make sure to visit on a clear day to make the most of the scenery.
The onsen can get quite busy with a good number of group tours staying in the hotel, nonetheless a good stop for a soak when you are here for your appointment at Wakka Spa.
Where: Niseko Village