Although hardly mentioned in travel guides, particularly English ones, Fukiage Hot Spring (onsen in Japanese) is probably the best hot springs I have been to. The nearby Tokachi Onsen is well known, and featured in many guides. Looking for something I bit more off the tourist tracks, I went on Google and searched for おんせん (onsen/hot spring) and Fukiage Hot Spring came up nearby. It’s also featured in some Japanese hiking maps and is accessible using the same bus as for Tokachi Onsen, which makes it good for budget travelers like me!
Even though it was very quiet, the hot spring is well signposted with areas to park or rest. From the entrance I had to walk down the mountain for a minute or so, meaning the hot spring area is totally quiet. It could be a bit scary coming here at night (there were no lights!), so best to come here in the daytime! There are also no private areas to change!
Once I got to the hot spring, I didn’t really know what to do. I have been to countless hot springs, but never to one so remote and without any staff. There was a notice in Japanese asking people to cover up, and as nobody was around I eventually went in with some trunks on. But about ten minutes later some old geezers came in holding towers, then took them off as they entered! I followed suit, of course.
There are two baths. Both were rather hot, with the upper one being extremely so, even for the hardcore old men who have obviously been to thousands. It seems that most hot springs, or spas, add cold water so the temperature is more comfortable for a larger number of people. The upper bath here though seems to just be hot spring water direct from the source. Try it if you can, but I could only manage 2 seconds!
After taking a dip, visitors can cool off on the rocks with a bit of mountain breeze. It felt great going in and out, seeing how long I could stay in, then laying down on the rocks. I put my towel over though, as some ladies came in later! They were too shy to go in with all the old guys in there, and just dipped their legs in.
Sounds fun? Check out the budget travel guide for access and other information.