Japan is famed for a lot of things: sushi, cherry blossoms, shrines, technology…the list surely goes on. However, what we especially appreciate about this unique nation – especially in the striking cold of this winter season – is the deep culture of onsens (hot springs) and their accompanying ryokans (traditional Japanese inns).

Rakuten Travel – an online travel agency listing the largest number of hotels and ryokans available around Japan – has announced their annual top onsen ryokan ranking for 2016.

Based on an average of more than 60 customer reviews for each destination, the rankings are a representation of what people really had to say about their own experiences. Here’s a look at the top three onsen that people were raving about this year.

Number 1: Noji Onsen Hotel – Fukushima Prefecture


Sitting above the clouds at 1200m high, Fukushima Prefecture’s Noji Onsen holds on to its crown as No.1 onsen ryokan, for the second year in a row. Visitors can relax in the soothing, milky waters of the sulfur hot spring, choosing from a variety of 6 types of baths – open 24 hours a day. The sulfuric water in this hot spring is said to work wonders for complaints like gastrointestinal disorders and neuralgia.

Here are a couple of the things that visitors had to say:
“Both the quality of the bath and atmosphere were great, and it was so nice to have an all-natural onsen to bathe in whenever we wanted.”
“The milky color, the types of baths, the temperature control, the detailed cleaning – it was a great onsen in all aspects.”


Number 2: Zao Kokusai Hotel – Yamagata Prefecture

Shooting up from 20th place last year, Zao Hokusai Hotel just barely missed the top spot. The milky sulfur water of this onsen flows directly from the source into the all-wooden indoor bath to the stone-made open-air bath.

Comments from guests at Zao Kokusai Hotel:
“The onsen is fantastic — of course the open-air bath is awesome, but the covered wooden bath creates the most relaxing atmosphere.”
“Let yourself go with the flow of the water, while you look up at the wooden ceiling and hear the sounds of the trickling water in the background. It’s a real escape from the daily rush, and a completely raw way to enjoy the true onsen experience.”


Number 3: Tsukioka Onsen Mashu – Niigata Prefecture

Making its debut on the charts, the Tsukioka Onsen Ryokan is gaining popularity through its “Bijin no yu (the beauty’s bath)” – a mild alkaline onsen that sparkles in a clear emerald green color. The four various open-air baths (rotemburo) and two private baths are all pure onsens that draw water directly from the source.

One enthusiastic visitor had this to say about her stay:
“We used both the private bath and the rotemburo, which were beautifully cleaned and refreshing to bathe in. It’s been two days since we’ve come back, but my skin is still smooth from the mild alkaline onsen. I highly recommend it.”

The days are getting colder and colder, but thank goodness we are here in the land of onsens. Going out and grabbing some drinks is always a great way to unwind, but hey, why not treat yourself to one of the greatest and warmest offers Japan has got?

You can see the rest of Rakuten Travel’s Top 20 Onsen Ryokan here: travel.rakuten.co.jp/mytrip/ranking/popular-onsen-hotel/ (Japanese only)

For more information about this press release, visit http://prtimes.jp/main/html/rd/p/000000037.000021228.html (Japanese only)