In Japan, onsen (温泉) are the country’s hot springs fueled by volcanic activity, as well as the bathing facilities and traditional inns around them.
There are around 2.300 onsen to choose from, many of them included in ryokan (traditional inns), which people of all ages have loved and enjoyed since ancient times. Since its inception in the 7th century, bathing in onsen has become a great form of leisure for the Japanese.
Konyoku (混 浴) describes a mixed onsen (hot spring) in Japan, where, traditionally, men and women completely stripped off and bathed together, just as they would in a gender-separated onsen. It is a very old Japanese tradition that have a history going back at least 1.000 years until it was outlawed in Tokyo and other urban centers
Nowadays, a small number of konyoku persist in rural areas. Here are our recommendations for some beautiful spots to enjoy konyoku all over Japan, in complete privacy, as a couple, with family or friends.
- Sukayu Onsen, Aomori (header photo): The onsen is famous for its large mixed Senninburo which means “1.000-person bath”. The whole swimming area is one large, wooden communal bath covers roughly 250 square meters, 4 baths and a hot spring waterfall.
- Tsuru no Yu, Akita: One of the 7 ryokan that you can find in Akita’s famous and secluded spa town, Nyuto Onsen. The onsen is one of the oldest hot springs in the region. There are 4 baths in total, 2 indoor baths separated by gender, the famous mixed rotenburo (outdoor bath) and a female-only rotenburo.
- Honke Bankyu, Tochigi: For more than 400 years, descendants of the Heike Dynasty have ruled the ryokan. Although there is only one outdoor mixed bath, Honke Bankyu offers a traditional and luxurious experience in the art of bathing.
- Awanoyu Ryokan, Nagano: The indoor baths are separated, but the outdoor bath, the most famous with its small waterfalls, is mixed. Men must wear swimming trunks, but women are only allowed to cover themselves with a towel. From mid-November to April, this is also a good place near Tokyo to experience Yukimi-buro (onsen surrounded by snow).
- Shin-Hotaka No Yu, Gifu: This is a natural river onsen bath, where you can bath and enjoy the surrounding nature from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. However, since it is a natural onsen, it cannot be used during the winter months (November to the end of April) and if the river rises too high.