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Japan’s Setouchi Region Onsens Spurring ‘Healing Holiday’ Travel

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Perhaps now more than ever people are craving healing, whether that be physically, emotionally, spiritually ... or all of the above. With COVID-19 vaccines starting to ramp up, many are planning travels for this year and beyond as a means toward this end. In fact, some are opting “healing holidays” whereby wellness is the driving force of their destination. With that, Japanese onsens, or hot springs fueled by volcanic activity, are realizing renewed popularity. Some even regard partaking in Japan’s onsens as an art—one of balance and therapeutic healing that promoted a connection between the mind, body and soul. Indeed, aside from the physical relaxation onsens promote, these soothing hot springs are sensational for promoting serenity and other restorative psychological states of mind. While there are copious onsens throughout Japan, the presence of which often indicated on signs and maps by the kanji 湯 (yu, meaning "hot water"), one region in particular is replete with these natural geothermally-heated baths: Setouchi. For its part, the Setouchi region—an area encompassing seven prefectures and 700 islands that flank the Seto Inland Sea—is replete with opportunities to soak in these revered waters and realize the wellness benefits associated with this experience. For the health-minded meanderer, bathing in an onsen is a bucket list must-do and an itinerary item imperative for those planning travel to Japan. Here are six of Setouchi’s best. Yubara Onsen Located in Okayama, the Yubara Onsen lies in a unique location along a dam. It’s a tranquil and rustic area renowned for three suna-yu open air baths that are available 24/7. The water springs at 6,000 liters per minute and don’t bother bringing soap, as the rich alkaline bath has enough detergency to cleanse your skin. Okutsu Onsen Okayama, Japan is best known for its waters that have a skin beautifying quality. Here, at Okutsu-so, the inn representing the Okutsu Onsen, you can find a tub connected to the spring’s source for a purified hot spring water experience without any oxidization. Oboke-Iya Onsen The Oboke-Iya Onsen is a hideaway all its own that is tucked into the valley of the Shikoku Islands mountains. Many of the area’s hotels have unique open-air onsen baths that can be reached by cable car. Plus, beyond the sparkling waters lies incredible gorges and unique bridges to explore in the fresh crisp air. Nagato Yumoto Onsen Having recently been renewed in collaboration with Hoshino Resort, the Nagato Yumoto Onsen boasts clear, alkaline-laden waters that flow through the heart of the ryokan district. These onsens are believed to soothe nerve pain, muscle soreness and fatigue. Yuda Onsen Yamaguchi, Japan’s Yuda Onsen is said to be “fox-blessed.” These springs are famed for their serenity and health benefits that trace back to an ancient legend centering around a white fox that once came to the town seeking refuge. According to folklore, the fox dipped its wounded paws in the water and was instantly healed, with the magic from that cure being left behind. Kinoe Onsen The Kinoe Onsen is a visual marvel. It seems to float magically and bathers enjoy incredibly relaxing views of the islands and the sea. The adjacent Hotel Seifu-kan avails lemon baths in-season along with plenty of other hospitality amenities. In all, the Setouchi Islands are rich with onsens allowing visitors to experience a soothing and recuperative outdoor bath in the heart of nature amid serene surroundings. Beyond its pristine beaches, sparkling blue waters, thriving art scene and distinctive dining, onsens are yet another reason to jaunt to this peaceful and authentic region of Japan. ~~~ Forbes Business Council Member Merilee Kern, MBA is an internationally-regarded brand analyst, strategist and futurist who reports on noteworthy industry change makers, movers, shakers and innovators across all categories, both B2C and B2B. This includes field experts and thought leaders, brands, products, services, destinations and events. Merilee is Founder, Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List” as well as Host of the nationally-syndicated “Savvy Living” TV show. As a prolific consumer and business trends, lifestyle and leisure industry voice of authority and tastemaker, she keeps her finger on the pulse of the marketplace in search of new and innovative must-haves and exemplary experiences at all price points, from the affordable to the extreme. Her work reaches multi-millions worldwide via broadcast TV (her own shows and copious others on which she appears) as well as a myriad of print and online publications. Connect with her at and / Instagram / Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIN ***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above may have been provided or arranged at no cost to accommodate if this is review editorial, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.*** Photo Copyright Okutso Onsen


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