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The Best Native Guide of Hot Springs In Japan; 10 Different Types Of Hot Spring Water

10 different types of onsen Culture, Etiquette

In Europe and Japan, people have been using natural hot springs as a therapy since ancient years.

The different natural chemicals contain in hot springs, and each hot springs have different effects on several health conditions.

In Japan, Japanese “Onsen”, hot springs in Japanese, has been attractive as one of the bucket list for overseas tourists.

However, you need to learn the types of natural hot springs before trying. Especially, if you are a beginner, have sensitive skin, chronicle disease.

Some maniac Onsen in Japan, the natural chemicals in water tends to be strong affection to your body, I am going to tell you 10 types of hot springs in Japan today,

To get positive benefits from hot springs, so learn it, enjoy it.

What’s pH scale for Onsen

pH is a scale used to specify how acidic or basic a water-based solution.

In Japan, the quality of the hot spring water is classified into 10 types of hot springs by natural chemical components includes the pH scale.

Hot springs under standard pH level, it can’t be called “Hot Springs”- “Onsen” (温泉), it must be indicated as “hot spring corresponding to Article 2 of the hot spring law”

When the pH level is high, the alkalinity is strong, and if the pH level is low, the acidity is high.

Generally, alkaline springs act for cleansing and smooth the skin, and acidic springs have bactericidal action.
Refer to each feature and indication to find a hot spring that suits you.

Simple Thermal Spring (Tanjun Onsen)

gero onsen, gifu

“Simple thermal springs” (Tanjun onsen-単純温泉) with less than 1,000 ppm mineral composition and the water temperature is over 25 Celsius when the water springs.

On the other words, any spring which does not contain a high concentration of minerals would be categorized as a simple thermal spring so this can be the perfect choice for an onsen beginner.

Of these, those with a pH of 8.5 or higher are called “alkaline simple hot springs”.

The feature of water is soft (smooth) and clear, has less irritating to the skin.

Popular Places

  • Gero Onsen in Gifu prefecture
  • Kakyo Onsen in Nagano prefecture

Chloride Spring (Enka butsusen)

chloride spring, japan

In the Chloride Spring (Enka Butsusen-塩化物泉), dissolved substances (excluding gas) in 1kg water should be more than 1,000 mg and also the main anion components should be chloride ion.

The Chloride Spring comes in 3 types: “sodium”, “calcium”, and “magnesium”.

The Chloride Spring is relatively common in Japan.

This type of onsen is said to heal cuts, burns, and other injuries on the skin and to improve the skin condition due to the high sodium content.

Also, it helps to keep your body warm as preventing your sweat from evaporating.

When soaking in a chloride spring, it prompts parasympathetic nerves- relaxes physically and mentally. Besides, it has a milder effect than other hot springs, has fewer side effects. Therefore, it is recommended for elderly people and those who are recovering from illness.

Popular Places

  • Atami Onsen in Shizuoka prefecture
  • Katayamazu Onsen in Ishikawa prefecture


  • Wounds
  • Peripheral circulatory disorders,
  • A cold sensitivity
  • Depression
  • Dry skin

The Sodium Bicarbonate Saline Spring (Tansan suiso ensen)

In the Sodium Bicarbonate Saline Spring (Tansan Suiso Ensen-炭酸水素塩泉), dissolved substances (excluding gas) in 1kg water should be more than 1,000 mg and also the main anion components should be bicarbonate ion.

Bicarbonate spring is sometimes called “Skin Beauty Water” or “Cooling Water”, which means it is said to remove dead skin cells and make skin smooth.

Another feature of water is cleansing effect as if you were washing your body with soap.

The effect of removing unnecessary calluses is that the moisture from the skin is easily evaporated and it dries, so it is important to apply moisturizer early after bathing.

Popular Places

  • Kawayu Onsen in Wakayama Prefecture
  • Otari Onsen in Nagano Prefecture
  • Kurokawa Onsen in Kumamoto Prefecture
  • Gora Onsen in Kanagawa Prefecture
  • Amanagawa Onsen in Kagoshima Prefecture


  • Wounds
  • Peripheral circulatory disorders,
  • A cold sensitivity
  • Depression
  • Dry skin

Sulfate Spring (Ryusanen sen)

In the Sulphate Spring (Ryusanen sen-硫酸塩泉) dissolved substances (excluding gas) in 1kg water should be more than 1,000 mg and also the main anion components should be sulfate ion.

There are 3 types of sulfate spring: magnesium, calcium, and sodium, depending on the components contained.

The Sulfate spring

The calcium sulfate spring is believed to heal “wounds” and “stroke”, and also is also as therapy for people who suffer from chronic constipation, arteriosclerosis, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, trauma.

The sodium sulfate spring is said to be effective for hypertension and arteriosclerosis. Also, it is popular as a drinking hot springs, which the effect of promoting bile secretion and activating peristalsis of the intestines.

The magnesium sulfate spring has the same effect as other sulfate hot springs. In particular, it is said to have the effect of lowering blood pressure in hypertension, improving paralysis after stroke, and preventing arteriosclerosis.

Popular Places

  • Houshi Onsen in Gunma prefecture
  • Amagi Yugashima Onsen in Shizuoka prefecture

Carbonated Springs (Nisankatansosen)

carbonated hot spring

The “Carbonated spring” (Nisankaransosen-二酸化炭素泉) is very rare, with only 0.6% of all hot springs in Japan. The feature of water is lukewarm because carbon dioxide (fizz) will be losing when the water is hot.

When you soak in the carbonated spring, fizzy bubbles affect your whole body, giving you a refreshing feeling.

Among natural hot springs, the carbon dioxide spring has a particularly high effect on the expansion of peripheral nerves and improving blood circulation.

Besides, drinking carbonated spring water prompts the secretion of gastric acid and gastric juice, assists absorption, and increases blood flow on the surface of the stomach, and is said to have an effect of increasing appetite.

In Europe, medical research on Carbonated springs therapy has been undergoing for over 100 years. (it’s more likely used for drinking therapy.)

Popular Places

  • Nagayu Onsen in Oita Prefecture
  • Kogane Onsen in Yamagata Prefecture
  • Arima Onsen in Hyogo Prefecture


  • Wounds
  • Peripheral circulatory disorders,
  • A cold sensitivity
  • Autonomic instability

Ferruginous (Chalybeate) Spring (Gantetsu sen)

arima onsen


There are two types of the “Ferruginous (Chalybeate) Spring (Gantetsu sen – 含鉄泉): bicarbonate springs and sulfate springs.

Due to the high Ferruginous content, the water turns into an opaque yellow (brown) color when exposed to air and oxidized, and it has an excellent effect on anemia.

This type of onsen is said to be beneficial for people with disorders that will make your red blood cell count go low, such as anemia, menstrual disorders, and also rheumatic diseases, menopausal disorders, uterine dysgenesis, chronic eczema, lichen (disease).

It is not recommended to drink the water, though.

Popular Places

  • Arima Onsen in Hyogo Prefecture

Acidic Spring (Sansei sen)

tamagawa onsen

This type of hot springs is hardly seen in European countries, but it can be found in various places in Japan, mainly in highland areas.

Acidic springs are often found around volcanic fumaroles, so the water temperature is generally high. Be sure to check the temperature of the hot water so that you do not get burned before you soak it in a bathtub.

The “acidic spring (Sansei sen – 酸性泉) contains acidic substances such as sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, and boric acid.

Since it is strongly acidic, it has a high antibacterial effect against chronic skin diseases such as athlete’s foot, acne, and eczema, as well as cuts and trauma.

Besides, the action of acid facilitates the peeling of old skin, activates metabolism, and has the effect of cleansing the skin.

However, the action of acid causes over irritation to the skin. Especially beware in the wintertime.

Rinse your body well after bathing in acidic springs.

Popular Places

  • Tamagawa Onsen in Akita Prefecture
  • Sugawa Onsen in Iwate Prefecture


  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Psoriasis vulgaris
  • Impaired glucose tolerance (diabetes)
  • Purulent infections

Iodine Springs 

In the Iodine spring (Youso sen-含ヨウ素泉) should be contained more than 10 mg of Iodine in 1-kilogram spring water. Most of them are non-volcanic hot springs, which turn yellow with time.

It is the new face of hot spring in Japan, just added in the “Spring Analysis Law Guidelines” revised in July 2014 by the Ministry of the Environment’s Natural Environment Bureau.

Iodine is an essential trace mineral commonly found in certain vegetables and seafood. The thyroid gland uses it to make thyroid hormones, which help control growth, repair damaged cells, and support a healthy metabolism.

Iodine is a highly active element, and its strong oxidizing power exerts a bactericidal effect.

You may familiar that Iodine is used in mouthwash and wound care.

However, excessive intake of iodine may cause thyroid hypertrophy.

Popular Places

  • Araya Onsen in Akita Prefecture
  • Oyu Onsen in Akita Prefecture
  • Otemachi Onsen in Tokyo Prefecture
  • Shirako Onsen in Chiba Prefecture
  • Seiryuu Onsen in Niigata Prefecture

Sulphur Spring (Iou sen)

Rotorua, hot springs, sulphur spring

In the Sulphur spring (Iou sen – 硫黄泉) should be contained more than 2 mg of sulfur in 1-kilogram spring water.

The sulphur is famous for  a strong odor of rotten eggs.

The color of the water is clear when springs out, but when it is exposed to the air and oxidized, it changes to dull color or yellow.

Also, hydrogen sulfide gas has the chemical property of oxidizing some metals such as iron and silver, take accessories off such as necklaces, bracelets, and earrings before bathing.

Sulfur springs have therapeutic effects on chronic bronchitis, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It can also help cures for acne and blemishes on the skin from bacterial breakdown.

Popular Places

  • Nikko Yumoto hot spring in Tochigi prefecture
  • Kowakudani Onsen in Hakone Onsen district, Kanagawa prefecture


  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Psoriasis vulgaris
  • Chronic eczema
  • Suppurative epidermis

Radioactive Spring (Hoshano sen)

It sounds scary because radioactivity is often believed to harm the human body, but the amount of radioactive minerals is very low, much lower than X-rays.

The radioactive spring (Hoshano sen -放射能泉) is supposed to be effective against the gamut of hypertension, arteriosclerosis, chronic dermatitis, and chronic gynecological disorders.

The radiation is absorbed by the skin and respiratory organs but is supposed to leave your body immediately after bathing.

Popular Places

  • Misasa Onsen in Tottori Prefecture
  • Masutomi Onsen in Yamanashi Prefecture

As Last…

Now you know about the different types of hot springs in Japan.

As I said, if you are a beginner, “Simple Thermal Spring” or “Chloride Spring” may perfect choice, and major hot springs in Japan are classified into these types.

You can search for one after knowing health benefits and side effects.

Please be aware to choose suitable natural hot springs especially when you have sensitive skin and chronicle disease.

I am talking about details of hot spring notes, read next here if you are interested.

10 different types of onsen

Do you know that you can have the experience of Japanese hot springs at home adding Japanese bath salt products??? Here are my recommendations that you can buy online.

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