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Photo By: Cara Lam
Region
Chubu
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Niigata
Population
2,475,724

Tsubame Onsen

Refresh in this hot spring village with secluded outdoor hot baths that even include a mixed-gender bath.

🌟 This location is in Niigata Prefecture —  GaijinPot Travel’s No. 1 place to visit in 2018! 🥇

Naturally steaming in the middle of a forest and enclosed by local landmark Mount Myoko, Tsubame Onsen is an ultimate Japanese onsen (hot spring) experience. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that there are even spring baths that require no charge to bathe in mineral-rich waters.

In which prefecture do the monkeys famously bathe?

Monkeys bathing in the onsen in Nagano
At the trailhead of Mt. Myoko in southern Niigata, Tsubame Onsen has two secluded outdoor baths: Kawara-no-yu and Ogon-no-yu. The baths are a 15-minute walk from the quaint “onsen village” located about 1,000 meters above sea level in Myoko Togakushi Renzan National Park.

The walk is made up of several family-owned hot spring inns, and gets quite steep, which might be expected of the trailhead of the highest mountain in the Hokushin area. This popular area has tons of nature and culture spots. One of the most popular is Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, where monkeys are famously seen bathing in spring baths.

About the baths

There is no such thing as a free lunch, but there are free hot springs in Japan! Tsubame Onsen doesn’t charge an entry fee, but visitors are encouraged to make a donation at the entrance. The baths — each sized for about five people — are naturally off-white, some might even say milky, in color from the healing minerals contained.

At Ogon-no-yu, the onsen has designated areas for male and female. However, the two zones are right next to each other, divided only by thin bamboo mats. Those who are shy beware of this! Not much separates you from the opposite sex. The other bath, Kawara-no-yu, is a mixed gender one.

Photo by: Cara Lam Two visitors make their way down to the onsen.

Bring a bath towel for this one. Unlike other hot spring facilities, there are no pre-bath showers available at Tsubame, but there is a small changing hut next to each bath.

Know before you go

You can visit the 43.5-degree Celsius bath in summer and fall, but it is recommended to visit Tsubame Onsen in winter when snow is flurrying. The path leading to the Tsubame baths is closed from December to June due to heavy snowfall. Good footwear is recommended as the path gets narrow and wet at times.

The spring waters are rich in sulfur, sulfate, and chloride, which contain great healing properties for rheumatism, neuralgia, and various skin ailments. It may take a while for the body to adjust to the high temperature of the onsen, but once the temperature becomes manageable, remember to take breaks every 5-10 minutes to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion.

The heat of the onsen certainly warms up your blood and relaxes the body, but the peaceful ambience makes it an otherworldly spot off the beaten track.

Read more on the art of onsen and other recommended spots for fall and winter.

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Trivia

Monkeys bathing in the onsen in Nagano

Nagano

World-class winter sports, hot springs (occasionally monkey-filled), delicious local food and a foreigner-friendly vibe.

More

Things To Know

Language Tips

There is no English information at the onsen village, so please look for “黄金の湯” for Ougon-no-yu and “河原の湯” for Kawara-no-yu. The character for male and female are “男” and “女,” respectively.

Hours

Typically from noon to sunset.

How To Get There

By train

Take the Echigo Tokimeki railway on Myoko Haneuma Line and get off at Sekiyama Station. From there, take the bus that brings you straight to the last stop at Tsubame Onsen (燕温泉). Notice that the bus doesn’t run on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays.

By car

If you are not staying in any of the hotels in the onsen village, please use the parking lot about 200 meters before the village. The parking lots inside the village are for hotel guests.

Where To Stay

Tsubame Highland Lodge
  • Tsubame Onsen Myoko-Shi, Niigata 949-2235
  • 8.8/10
  • 0.7 km
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Mitaka
  • Akakura 587−5 Myoko-Shi, Niigata 949-2111
  • 8.9/10
  • 2.2 km
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Myoko Ski Lodge
  • Akakura 570-15 Myoko-Shi, Niigata 949-2111
  • 9.6/10
  • 2.5 km
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Akakura Wakui Hotel
  • Akakura 28 Myoko-Shi, Niigata 949-2111
  • 8.8/10
  • 2.7 km
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