Industry insights
Onsen healing

Tomonori Maruyama fills us in on a new wave of hot springs development underway in Japan


Japan has a long history of hot springs culture through their onsens, or hot springs. For Japanese people, relaxing and enjoying a hot spring bath on holiday has become a core leisure activity. The need for hot springs travel to provide a sense of healing and stress relief is increasing, as people can now finally travel freely.

New onsen development
Recently developed onsen facilities range from modern, innovative styles to traditional styles like ryokan inns. New facilities are appearing one after another, each trying to attract not only traditional onsen fans but also young people and foreign tourists. The target clientele varies from one establishment to another and ranges from mass market to the affluent.

In Japan, there have been many cases of private open-air hot-spring baths in special high-end rooms for some time, but COVID-19 has led to an increase in the number of accommodation facilities offering private hot-springs baths in all rooms. There is also an impression that facilities are being developed with SDGs-conscious materials and service content is becoming more sustainability-conscious.

Meanwhile, saunas are a growth area in Japan and there is a trend towards developing saunas in combination with onsen. Aufguss rituals performed in saunas are also popular. New Japanese and Western styles using Japanese tea are emerging.

Hot springs drilling technology has evolved considerably, making it easier to drill for hot springs than in the past. Therefore, renovation and redevelopment of resorts that were forced to close due to COVID-19 and new developments on former resort sites, are progressing. In this context, the number of cases where newly developed resorts and other sites have spa facilities attached to them is increasing. It is not so much that hot springs developments alone are booming, but that resort developments as a whole are flourishing, with the accompanying increase in hot spring developments.

Unique hot springs culture
According to the 2019 Survey on Foreign Visitor Consumption Trends, conducted by the Japan Tourism Agency just before COVID-19 spread, 49 per cent of foreign visitors to Japan answered “bathing in hot springs” as the thing they would most like to do the next time they visit Japan – second only to “eating Japanese food” (58 per cent) – which shows the high interest in hot springs culture.

No other hot springs country has more than 27,000 sources, with an output of 2.5 million litres per minute. Moreover, 47 per cent of the hot springs are over 42 degrees Celsius, making it unique to enjoy hotter water than in other countries.

There are nearly 3,000 hot springs resorts in Japan and 13,000 accommodations that offer hot springs bathing facilities and services, many of which are located along volcanic belts which provide the heat source. There is also an abundance of hot springs water sources, as the rainy season, typhoons and snowfall bring large amounts of water to the Japanese archipelago.

Because of this abundance of hot springs resources, the Japanese people have long nurtured a unique hot springs cure and bathing culture, which has developed in different regions, allowing visitors to experience different hot springs offerings and different hot springs travel experiences depending on their destination. The richness of variation in the quality and culture of hot springs and the travel experiences they offer is one of the greatest characteristics of Japanese hot springs.

Many areas around the hot springs sources have been developed as tourist attractions and the Japanese way of enjoying onsens is not only to bathe in the hot springs, but also to savour the scenery and travel atmosphere of the onsen inns and onsen towns. In addition to the open-air and indoor baths, you can experience much of the local area through trips to onsen resorts, such as famous landmarks and unique local cuisine. Each region also has its own unique aroma, colour, ingredients and effects. It is fun to go out and experience the differences between hot springs all over Japan.

In many cases, rather than adjusting the temperature of the hot springs in Japan, people use them in their natural state, and in some places the temperature is as low as lukewarm. In most cases, people bathe naked in the large baths in onsen hotels or in the onsen baths provided in guest rooms. As such, privacy is highly valued, photography is not permitted and playing or making noise in the baths is not popular. In the baths, time and space are required for people to heal and relax.

Recent onsen openings
Hoshino Resorts’ Kai brand is one of the most active developers of onsen ryokan in Japan, opening seven new ryokan in just two years starting in 2021. This includes Kai Poroto, a unique facility where guests enjoy the cultural and architectural style of the Ainu people – who have lived in Hokkaido since ancient times – as well as the organic hot springs of plant origin that have been deposited along the shores of Lake Poroto for many years. Kai Yufuin is situated between majestic Mt. Yufu and a landscape of beautifully terraced rice fields and at Kai Tamatsukuri, the hot springs ryokan offers the best of Shimane culture, from seafood to sake, tea ceremonies, and dips in baths — available both in the rooms and in the bath halls — fed by the historic Tamatsukuri Hot Spring.

Also recently opened is the Hotel The Mitsui Kyoto, located in the heart of Kyoto – adjacent to Nijo-jo Castle on the site of the Kyoto home of the Kitake, the executive branch of the Mitsui Family. The hotel has two hot springs facilities: a spa where guests can enjoy the natural hot springs that spring from the hotel grounds, and Onsen Suites.

Hot springs healing
The city of Sendai, which was severely damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, used to be a bustling area surrounded by peaceful rice paddies and boating on the canal. Aqua Ignis Sendai was established in 2022 as a food, agriculture and hot springs complex, aiming to create a space where people can gather again in an area that was the site of mass relocation due to the earthquake. The facility will offer a relaxing “hot spring cure” by soaking in the hot springs on a hill overlooking the coast, eating seasonal ingredients from the rich natural environment and nurturing the ingredients in new ways. It is a large-scale commercial and onsen facility based on a completely new concept that promotes local production for local consumption in cooperation and interaction with local people.

The future
A super-sized hot springs facility, Senkyaku Banrai – a recreation of an old town in the Edo period – is under development and construction in Tokyo’s new central wholesale market Toyosu Market, under contract from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government by a major hot springs facility management group, Manyo Club.

TOWER11, a natural hot springs, sauna, and hotel complex, is scheduled to open in 2023 within the ballpark ESCON Field Hokkaido. Hot springs water has been successfully drilled approximately 1,300m underground and visitors will soon be able to enjoy the world’s first hot springs and sauna inside a ballpark. And the Hakone Hotel Kowakien – a famous, long-established, large-scale hot springs facility – will finally reopen this year after many years of renovation.

Photographic OHI
About the author:

Tomonori Maruyama is chief researcher of Mistui Knowledge Industry and is dedicated to global research on spa services and industry structures.

Hoshino is one of the largest developers of onsen Credit: Hoshino Resorts
The entire atmosphere of onsen inns and towns is important Credit: Hoshino Resorts
Savouring the scenery at onsen hotels is part of the healing journey Credit: Hoshino Resorts
Time and space are what’s needed for people to relax Credit: Hoshino Resorts
Credit: Hoshino Resorts
New onsens hope to attract younger guests and tourists Credit: shutterstock/PR Image Factory
 


CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2024

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS
 
20 Apr 2024 Leisure Management: daily news and jobs
 
 
HOME
JOBS
NEWS
FEATURES
PRODUCTS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTION
PRINT SUBSCRIPTION
ADVERTISE
CONTACT US
Sign up for FREE ezine

Leisure Management - Onsen healing

Industry insights

Onsen healing


Tomonori Maruyama fills us in on a new wave of hot springs development underway in Japan

Hoshino is one of the largest developers of onsen Hoshino Resorts
Resorts are increasingly offering private hot springs baths shutterstock/Bhakpong
The entire atmosphere of onsen inns and towns is important Hoshino Resorts
Savouring the scenery at onsen hotels is part of the healing journey Hoshino Resorts
Time and space are what’s needed for people to relax Hoshino Resorts
Hoshino Resorts
New onsens hope to attract younger guests and tourists shutterstock/PR Image Factory

Japan has a long history of hot springs culture through their onsens, or hot springs. For Japanese people, relaxing and enjoying a hot spring bath on holiday has become a core leisure activity. The need for hot springs travel to provide a sense of healing and stress relief is increasing, as people can now finally travel freely.

New onsen development
Recently developed onsen facilities range from modern, innovative styles to traditional styles like ryokan inns. New facilities are appearing one after another, each trying to attract not only traditional onsen fans but also young people and foreign tourists. The target clientele varies from one establishment to another and ranges from mass market to the affluent.

In Japan, there have been many cases of private open-air hot-spring baths in special high-end rooms for some time, but COVID-19 has led to an increase in the number of accommodation facilities offering private hot-springs baths in all rooms. There is also an impression that facilities are being developed with SDGs-conscious materials and service content is becoming more sustainability-conscious.

Meanwhile, saunas are a growth area in Japan and there is a trend towards developing saunas in combination with onsen. Aufguss rituals performed in saunas are also popular. New Japanese and Western styles using Japanese tea are emerging.

Hot springs drilling technology has evolved considerably, making it easier to drill for hot springs than in the past. Therefore, renovation and redevelopment of resorts that were forced to close due to COVID-19 and new developments on former resort sites, are progressing. In this context, the number of cases where newly developed resorts and other sites have spa facilities attached to them is increasing. It is not so much that hot springs developments alone are booming, but that resort developments as a whole are flourishing, with the accompanying increase in hot spring developments.

Unique hot springs culture
According to the 2019 Survey on Foreign Visitor Consumption Trends, conducted by the Japan Tourism Agency just before COVID-19 spread, 49 per cent of foreign visitors to Japan answered “bathing in hot springs” as the thing they would most like to do the next time they visit Japan – second only to “eating Japanese food” (58 per cent) – which shows the high interest in hot springs culture.

No other hot springs country has more than 27,000 sources, with an output of 2.5 million litres per minute. Moreover, 47 per cent of the hot springs are over 42 degrees Celsius, making it unique to enjoy hotter water than in other countries.

There are nearly 3,000 hot springs resorts in Japan and 13,000 accommodations that offer hot springs bathing facilities and services, many of which are located along volcanic belts which provide the heat source. There is also an abundance of hot springs water sources, as the rainy season, typhoons and snowfall bring large amounts of water to the Japanese archipelago.

Because of this abundance of hot springs resources, the Japanese people have long nurtured a unique hot springs cure and bathing culture, which has developed in different regions, allowing visitors to experience different hot springs offerings and different hot springs travel experiences depending on their destination. The richness of variation in the quality and culture of hot springs and the travel experiences they offer is one of the greatest characteristics of Japanese hot springs.

Many areas around the hot springs sources have been developed as tourist attractions and the Japanese way of enjoying onsens is not only to bathe in the hot springs, but also to savour the scenery and travel atmosphere of the onsen inns and onsen towns. In addition to the open-air and indoor baths, you can experience much of the local area through trips to onsen resorts, such as famous landmarks and unique local cuisine. Each region also has its own unique aroma, colour, ingredients and effects. It is fun to go out and experience the differences between hot springs all over Japan.

In many cases, rather than adjusting the temperature of the hot springs in Japan, people use them in their natural state, and in some places the temperature is as low as lukewarm. In most cases, people bathe naked in the large baths in onsen hotels or in the onsen baths provided in guest rooms. As such, privacy is highly valued, photography is not permitted and playing or making noise in the baths is not popular. In the baths, time and space are required for people to heal and relax.

Recent onsen openings
Hoshino Resorts’ Kai brand is one of the most active developers of onsen ryokan in Japan, opening seven new ryokan in just two years starting in 2021. This includes Kai Poroto, a unique facility where guests enjoy the cultural and architectural style of the Ainu people – who have lived in Hokkaido since ancient times – as well as the organic hot springs of plant origin that have been deposited along the shores of Lake Poroto for many years. Kai Yufuin is situated between majestic Mt. Yufu and a landscape of beautifully terraced rice fields and at Kai Tamatsukuri, the hot springs ryokan offers the best of Shimane culture, from seafood to sake, tea ceremonies, and dips in baths — available both in the rooms and in the bath halls — fed by the historic Tamatsukuri Hot Spring.

Also recently opened is the Hotel The Mitsui Kyoto, located in the heart of Kyoto – adjacent to Nijo-jo Castle on the site of the Kyoto home of the Kitake, the executive branch of the Mitsui Family. The hotel has two hot springs facilities: a spa where guests can enjoy the natural hot springs that spring from the hotel grounds, and Onsen Suites.

Hot springs healing
The city of Sendai, which was severely damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, used to be a bustling area surrounded by peaceful rice paddies and boating on the canal. Aqua Ignis Sendai was established in 2022 as a food, agriculture and hot springs complex, aiming to create a space where people can gather again in an area that was the site of mass relocation due to the earthquake. The facility will offer a relaxing “hot spring cure” by soaking in the hot springs on a hill overlooking the coast, eating seasonal ingredients from the rich natural environment and nurturing the ingredients in new ways. It is a large-scale commercial and onsen facility based on a completely new concept that promotes local production for local consumption in cooperation and interaction with local people.

The future
A super-sized hot springs facility, Senkyaku Banrai – a recreation of an old town in the Edo period – is under development and construction in Tokyo’s new central wholesale market Toyosu Market, under contract from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government by a major hot springs facility management group, Manyo Club.

TOWER11, a natural hot springs, sauna, and hotel complex, is scheduled to open in 2023 within the ballpark ESCON Field Hokkaido. Hot springs water has been successfully drilled approximately 1,300m underground and visitors will soon be able to enjoy the world’s first hot springs and sauna inside a ballpark. And the Hakone Hotel Kowakien – a famous, long-established, large-scale hot springs facility – will finally reopen this year after many years of renovation.

Photographic OHI
About the author:

Tomonori Maruyama is chief researcher of Mistui Knowledge Industry and is dedicated to global research on spa services and industry structures.


Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2023 edition

Published by Leisure Media Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 | Contact us | About us | © Cybertrek Ltd