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Deep in Kagoshima: 3 unique onsen

Deep in Kagoshima: 3 unique onsen

Onsen, Japan’s hot spring spas, is a popular Japanese pastime and a relaxing way to spend much earned vacation time. Of all the great onsen “hot spots” in Japan, Kyushu is well known for its wonderful and abundant onsen. The southern island boasts 17 active volcanoes and as you can guess, many of the best onsen are near them. 


Kagoshima Prefecture is home to three very unique onsen experiences that you won’t find elsewhere in Japan. For some, getting to Kyushu and Kagoshima may seem daunting, but with many direct flights from Japan’s major cities and the Shinkansen bullet train terminating in Kagoshima City, it couldn’t be easier!


Ibusuki Onsen (指宿温泉)

This is the only place in Japan where you can take a naturally heated sand bath. The best place for this unique experience is at Healthy Land Resort, which is known both for its sand baths and breathtaking ocean views and ambiance.


(Image credit: Josh Grengs)


The Healthy Land Resort consists of three hot springs: Sand-Steamed Hot Spring Sayuri (砂むし温泉「砂湯里」), Tamatebako Outdoor Hot Spring (たまて箱温泉), and Onsen Hoyōkan (温泉保養館). You can start at either location but Tamatebako is closest to the bus stop. From there, purchase the ticket for access to both the open-air bath at Tamatebako and the sand bath at nearby Sayuri. Tamatebako’s open-air bath is extremely large and opens up directly onto the Pacific Ocean offering a stunning panoramic view of the now-dormant Mount Kaimon volcano (開聞岳, Kaimondake) and surrounding ocean cliffs. 


(Image credit: Julien Manchuelle)


Next, head over to the sand-steamed hot spring at Sayuri. After receiving a yukata and towel, head to the sand bath area where locals are diligently preparing the sand to cover you with. Within seconds you’re buried up to your neck in warm black sand. The comforting weight of the sand envelopes you, and relaxes and soothes your body as you admire the spectacular view of Mount Kaimon, but the warmth of the sand coupled with the calming sounds of the ocean waves crashing in front will quickly lull many to sleep. 


(Image credit: Josh Grengs)


Access: About 1 hour and 30 minutes from JR Kagoshima Station to JR Yamakawa Station, change to the Kagoshima Kōtsū Bus to Healthy Land Bus stop. From the bus stop it’s a 10-minute walk to Tamatebako.


Kirishima Onsen (霧島温泉)

Kirishima Onsen sits on Mount Kirishima (霧島山), yet another of Kagoshima’s major volcanoes. The road leading there is lined with billowing clouds of steam from the many hot spring sources in the area. Travel deep into the mountain and you’ll find Kirishima Shinmoesō Inn (霧島新燃荘). This secluded resort’s water is known for its colour, a beautiful shade of sky blue reminiscent of semi-transparent jade. For those brave enough, take a dip in the mixed-sex open-air bath. The water is said to heal skin disorders and is the perfect end to the day after a hike up the magnificent Mount Kirishima.


(Image credit: Josh Grengs)


Access: About 1 hour and 20 minutes from JR Kagoshima-Chuō Station to JR Kirishima Onsen Station, and then a 30-minute taxi to Shinmoesō Onsen.


Hirauchi Kaichū Onsen (平内海中温泉)

Lastly, Hirauchi Kaichu Onsen, found on the prefecture’s remote island of Yakushima (屋久島) is one of the very few seaside onsen in Japan where one can bathe in naturally heated seawater just steps away from the ocean. You’ll have to take a ferry or fly in from Kagoshima city, but once you’re there, you’ll find it just off the edge of the main road circling Yakushima island. Before visiting Hirauchi Onsen, remember to check the tidal times as it’s only able to be enjoyed twice a day at high tide. Hirauchi Onsen is a mixed bath with an honour payment system. Just drop ¥200 into the box next to the bath and jump in. It’s a local favourite and the hot salty seawater and surrounding waves present a wild experience for those looking to get deep into Kagoshima’s onsen culture. 


(Image credit: Josh Grengs)


Access: Take one of the three ferries from Kagoshima Port or fly in from Kagoshima Airport to Yakushima. About 1 hour by Yakushima Kōtsū bus from Miyanoura bus stop to Hirauchi Kaichu bus stop. Bus services change seasonally, so check before you go.


Header image credit: Josh Grengs


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