Relax at Nagasaki Onsen – with a detailed onsen guide

Relax at Nagasaki Onsen – with a detailed onsen guide

Onsen time! I have been to a few on my Japan trips, and they are one of those quintessential Japanese experiences for visitors to Japan. Nagasaki onsen are no different and remain very important part of everyday life, too

You will find natural hot springs with resorts for bathing anywhere in Japan, and visiting and onsen is a Japanese experience one should not miss!

Here is a report on my Nagasaki onsen experience and some tips that you may find helpful. These are the onsen I visited, and although there are a few more in Nagasaki and certainly many more on the Shima-hantō. I am going to stick to the ones I have been to – plenty to report on these already.

Nagasaki Prefecture is very hilly – with plenty of natural hot springs

I also have a general Nagasaki post up- feel free to start here if you are planning on visiting Nagasaki.

What is an Onsen?

In Japanese, onsen ((温泉 ) may mean either hot spring or the resort around a hot spring. Very often, it is marked with the Symbol  denoting an onsen suitable for bathing on maps or signs. A public bath that isn’t fed by hot spring water is usually called Sentō.

This is what you’ll be bathing in – in Unzen

How to use Onsen

I got into the habit of preparing my onsen essentials in case I fancied an after-class onsen in a Nagasaki Onsen. You won’t need much – but here are some helpful tips on being optimally prepared for an onsen visit.

What to bring to the onsen

First, I suggest you buy one of those cool tenugui small towels, which make great Japan souvenirs – available in pretty every 100 Yen shop and also in many traditional stationers. These are the only towels allowed inside the baths.

I have actually used my tenugui to dry off, but you may want to bring a slightly larger towel –  a Turkish Pestemal or a microfibre towel.

Bring some cash – most ticketing and food is via vending machine. And this is all you need for the onsen – there is food, drink, and all manner of entertainment there.

Nice to have’s are comfortable shoes to slip in and out of, a warmer layer if you visit during the cool season, some moisturizer and hair product if you use them. Everything else will be supplied.

Onsen Etiquette

When you enter the onsen, it’s best to observe the locals and do what they are doing. You will find big shelves to deposit outside shoes close to the entrance.

Afterwards, purchase a ticket from the vending machine. If some are just in Japanese – no problem. Usually there is an attendant desk nearby where you can ask.

Look for blue or red noren curtain for the men and women’s section, respectively, enter the changing room, undress, deposit everything in a locker and take the keys.

Consider to be naked as you enter the main bathing area. The only thing you can bring is your tiny tenugui towel.

As you enter the bathing area, you will find low plastic stools with shower heads. Shower  and clean yourself very, very thoroughly. After your are done, hose the stool with hot water to be ready for the next bather. It is pretty customary to wash hair as well at this point. Shampoo and soap are provided. Certainly everyone I saw was getting their hair wet. Also, it is not common to exfoliate in an onsen like you would in a hamam. It’s probably okay to use the scrub cloth as long as you rinse of thoroughly before entering the onsen bath.

Then you are ready for the bath – sometimes there is just one pool, sometimes there are different pools, and most onsen have a steam room or sauna too. Act like you are used to prancing around naked every day.

When sitting in a steam room or sauna, it is customary to hose down your seat with hot water, wither from a water hose or a bowl, before and after use.

Classic opinion is that you do not shower after onsen to keep the medicinal waters on your skin. But some onsen can smell a fair bit, some may be chlorinated, so it is not wrong to shower, either. Just remember the thorough shower that must come  before the onsen.

And now, let’s take a closer look at some Nagasaki onsen I visited. Please accept my apologies for lack of photos inside onsen – thought it would be a little disrespectful as most except Michinoo were quite busy!

Not an onsen but another picture to show the beauty of Nagasaki – it’s Yasaka Shrine

Michinoo Onsen (道の尾温泉), Greater Nagasaki

I am starting with my personal Nagasaki onsen favourite. Okay, this is definitely not the most famous or popular or most modern onsen.

Location and Water Properties

Michinoo Onsen is in the outskirts of Michinoo, a suburb-like area near Nagasaki. It is semi-rural – you can see rice fields and hills from the onsen. Very peaceful and lovely. The onsen is relatively small and housed in a nondescript Japanese suburban building. Inside, it’s all wood in the dry and tiles in the wet areas.

The water is pure onsen water without additions (although I smelled a whiff of chlorine) and it is mildly alkaline.

The Onsen Experience

Let me explain why this was my favourite. Firstly, it was super quiet and relaxing to be in. As soon as you enter, you see a vast tatami room with low tables, ringed with drinks vending, very fancy massage chairs, a small library, games and a small food serving area. If feels… homely and welcoming.

There is just one medium-sized bath with some water jet massage, and a steam room.

The baths, with their Soviet Sanatorium charm, certainly have a lovely feel to them. If you like Showa vintage style or Soviet sanatoriums. Or Wes Anderson flair. They are not fancy, but everything is clean and practical, down to the large benches and drinks vending in the toilets. How convenient that you, dripping wet, after your bath, can pop into the toilets, have a cold drink and a sitdown, and then go for another bath.

This being as far off the tourist trail, I don’t think this onsen sees that many foreigners. I certainly got a few irritated looks from some grannies taking an icy plunge bath. Perhaps she was inviting me to try the second cold tub, but I politely declined.

After my hot bath, I had a nice hour of relaxation with several of my favourite soft drinks and tried out the massage chairs – they were certainly high tech, super cheap and really felt a bit like a massage! Then I walked back to the station, breathing the cool fresh night air.

How to get to Michinoo Onsen

It it relatively straightforward: Michinoo is a decent sized suburb of Nagayo and what I would call part of the Nagasaki conurbation.  It has its own train station, served by the Japan Rail on the Nagasaki Main Line (Old) which is a scenic train line winding round the coastline of Omura Bay. You will need a local train to get there.

You can also take the bus to Michinoo – loads of buses heading north on 205 Highway will stop somewhere in Michinoo, and from there it’s a pleasant walk along a minor road through residential area to the onsen. A map app is your friend here. LAst not least, there is a free shuttle van from Sumiyoshi Shrine. The area is quite nice, you can take a tram No.1. and 3 there. The approach to the shrine is very nice, and there are some nice local restaurants in the area.

You will walk about 500m between train station and most Michinoo bus stops to the onsen. If you take the shuttle, it’s about 100m walk to Sumiyoshi tram stop.

Last not least, here is the onsen website: I really applaud them for their effort to offer an English language website.

Kojigoku Onsen (小地獄温泉館), Unzen, Shima-hantō

This was my first onsen experience on this trip and although it was quite short, still very lovely. It had the hottest water of the three, my husband was waiting outside, and we had arranged to pick up a classmate, so I did not spend as much time there as I would have liked.

Very rustic yet not crowded: Kojigoku Onsen

Location and Water Properties

For this one, it’s best to take a car. It is located some 3km outside central UNzen, in a nice forested area. The building from wood with its twin domes, looks very much like something out of a Ghibli film. It is one of the oldest onsen in Unzen, dating back to the early 18th CEntury.

Like many Unzen Onsen, it has its own spring. Unzen hot springs are all quite similar, producing a hot, milky sulphuric water that comes out at 64 degrees Celsius. It is mildly acidic and thought to be beneficial for a larger number of ailments: Neuralgia, Hypertension, Diabetes, Osteoarthritis, Chronic Fatigue, Gastrointestinal Disorders… and more.

Unzen’s onsen are sulphuric – very smelly but make beautiful smooth skin

The Onsen Experience

This was my first onsen after some years, and I proceeded with extreme caution, while my husband found a comfy place to sit outside in the sun. Like many places in Japan, you would buy a ticket from a vending machine – but there is a reception desk/souvenir shop that will help. The onsen fee was 500 JPY, less than 5 Euro. I also purchased a small tenugui type towel for 200JPY as I came a bit unprepared.  Immediately after reception, there are shelves for shoes, then I went to a small and cosy changing area with lockers and hair dryers.

The main bath for ladies is very small but atmospheric – think rustic natural stone floors, a lot of untreated wood, and a a large window. It is bright and friendly. It wasn’t busy on a Saturday afternoon, maybe three or four other women in a fairly generous sized pool. This is a gender segregated no tattoo onsen, and requires you to be  completely naked, but the water is so milky, once you are in, you cannot see anything. So, useful for those a bit conscious about their bodies. The communal washing area was also very stylish.

I think the cooler of the pools must have been 40 degrees Celsius- it was certainly really hot, and I did not manage to stay in for long. There wasn’t anywhere to lounge and cool down inside the ladies bathing area. ONly a few braved the smaller, even hotter pool.

Once changed and out, there was a very lovely tatami room between the mens and the women’s bath to relax. Everything including my clothes, smelled like matchsticks for weeks, my silver jewellery had turned black, but I did feel extremely relaxed afterwards, my skin felt really smooth, and most importantly, my low grade back pain completely disappeared for a few days.

How to get to Kojigoku Onsen

For Unzen, you are better off with a car – which you can hire in Nagasaki at a few places round the JR train station fairly cheaply. It’s only about 50kmt to UNzen, but on a windy road, so plan for at least one hour. From central Unzen, head south on a steep forested road – or take a taxi.

If you take public transport, take a JR train to Isahaya and change onto the bus. While there are plenty of trains to Isahaya, you will really plan well as from Isahaya, public transport is not frequent. Another option is to take a train to Shimabara – lovely scenic train ride to a pleasant coastal small town –  and take a bus from there. It’s  suitable as a Nagasaki day trip but you need to rise early and know the bus schedules.

You can stay at nearby Seiunso Onsen Resort across the road, which, of course, has its own bahts including public, private and an outdoor bath.

Inasayama Onsen Fuku No Yu (稲佐山温泉ふくの湯), Nagasaki

Fuko no Yu is a very large public onsen that everyone in Nagasaki knows. I was joking with some classmates that if you don’t want to be seen naked by your classmates, don’t go to this one.

Location and Water Properties

Fuku No Yu is part of a national chain and mass market modern onsen on the slope of Mount Inasa. And this humongous modern onsen has everything: Indoor baths, outdoor baths, several types of sauna and steam room, individual wooden bathtubs, salt room, carbon bath… the choices are baffling, it’s all included in a single ticket price of about 800JPY, making this incredibly value for money, considering you can stay all day and bathe as many times as you like. In addition, there is a cosmetology and massage salon.

I didn’t find much information about the water properties. Fuku No Yu onsen is definitely a hot spring onsen, but there is also (artificially) carbonated public bath.

Fuku no Yu: large, modern yet still clean and pleasant -a real family onsen

The Fuku No Yu Onsen Experience

Despite being large and mass market, this is also a no tattoo onsen as far as the public baths are concerned, but family baths are available for an extra charge. I arrived on the free shuttle, stored my shoes, navigated the vending machine, and then it took me some time to find the baths –  which are on the upper floor. Down stairs ia  a huge and sometimes noisy tatami room, a huge self service restaurant and a relaxation area with reclining chairs.

The changing area is also huge, the ladies section of the public baths was very large and had at least ten different types of bath and five saunas in it. So, after washing, I first went into the general pool. Nice hot water, but definitely quote chlorinated. The chlorine smell killed the fun for me a bit but I guess its better than bathing in contaminated water.  After a bit of communal pool , I dipped my foot in the cold pool (20 Degree Celsius), tried the jet massage pool,then walked out onto the terrace where there was a very scenic outdoor bath overlooking Nagasaki  -with big mounted TVs! Also some lounge chairs and wooden bathtubs. From there, you could walk into a another building part which housed a steam room and a salt sauna. Also, out there you can enjoy the “sleeping bath” –  a shallow pool where you can lie flat and… perhaps sleep, but the general noise will probably keep you awake.

It was certainly busy when I went on a Friday evening,which is a popular time to visit the onsen. It was definitely not crowded, but full – kids jumping around, TV blaring at full volume, people chatting. In terms of the water, I felt fairly relaxed after the onsen but not as deeply relaxed as after the other two onsen, and I definitely wanted to wash the onsen water off afterwards, because it smelled of chlorine.

How to get to Fuku No Yu Onsen

The onsen is accessible by road and has a huge free car park. For those without a car, there is a free shuttle bus that runs every half hour from various Nagasaki locations.

The view from Fuku no Yu isn’t bad, either

This makes Fuku No Yu incredible value – no need to buy a bus ticket, just pay for the bathing. If you go to the insen website, you will see the picture of the white and purple small bus with Hiragana writing on it. The times I used it, the timetables were adhered to and the shuttle made the onsen really accessible.

The Onsen Website is

More Nagasaki Onsen – which I didn’t visit

No matter how long I would have stayed, I would have been unable to visit all onsen in the area. On Shima Hanto alone there are at least twenty in the resort areas of Obama and Unzen, with another one in Shimabara. Actually, I visited the “foot onsen” there –  a weird but fun experience sitting under a shady canopy, legs in 40 degree water, in the middle of town, with some Japanese.

So, if you are in Shima-Hanto, you will be spoilt for choice. Near Nagasaki, there are a couple more public onsen you might wish to consider.

One that looks really nice is a large onsen resort day spa called Kidoan (長崎温泉 喜道庵) in Omura Bay north of Nagasaki. It probably wouldn’t look out of space in Switzerland with its rustic wood chalet except it is right by Omura Bay so you can look at the sea from your outside bath. There’s even a direct bus from NAgasaki Station going there every hour.

Another onsen with a scenic seaside setting is Ark Land Spa on Iojima Island. And it’s even cooler that they operate a free shuttle bus from nagasaki JR Station, This is another modern capacious onsen which looks a bit like Fuku No Yu in character.

But for me, it will always be the old, small, traditional ones that will be my favourites.

Tattoos in an onsen – a problem?

Some traditional public onsen do not permit bathers with tattoos. Even as tattoos are becoming more socially accepted and more popular among younger Japanese. Let’s preclude the default is that tattoos are not permitted unless you have permission from the management to use the baths with a tattoo.

I do remember seeing signs at Fuku No Yu that tattoos is not permitted, although I saw at least one person with smaller tattoos in there, and Fuku No Yu has private baths available.

Michinoo Onsen is very relaxed and they do permit tattoo at the managers discretion – best to enquire at reception.

At Kojigoku Onsen, it was very relaxed, too, and women in JApan tend not to have tattoos, so I saw no tattoos there and My gut feeling is they may not be allowed. It is best to contact the onsen beforehand to avoid disappointment.

There are exceptions to the rule, which you can find here. The Onsen Magazine is a pretty cool site on Kyushu Onsen and has an extensive section on Onsen etiquette.

Another option to take an onsen is to pre-book a family bath which is private, or go to an onsen resort with your own private onsen bath.

Where to Eat… bring on the post-bath comfort food

After the onsen…. you might want to eat. And honestly, who would want to go home and cook after a nice relaxing hot bath?

This is why many onsen usually have a small restaurant attached – or, like in the case of Fuku No Yu, a massive one. They are usually self service and serve Japanese comfort food staples: Hamburger set, Katsu curry, eggs boiled in onsen water, soft serve ice cream, soba noodles…

By tradition, coffee flavoured milk is a classic. Many people drink beer, although alcohol not advised as it might dilate vessels further.  So, you could stay in the onsen a bit longer and eat there. I haven’t done it but here are a few places I recommend for an after onsen meal.

There wasn’t really much in Unzen or Michinoo that looked so good, so Nagasaki is a better place to eat.

Curry House CoCo

Honestly, I thought I knew a lot about Japan but I did not know about CoCo curry. For a chain, their offerings are bloody good. In Nagasaki, there is a branch outside Hamanomachi Arcade, a few stops from the train station.

I am going call it a favourite because they cater to vegetarians very well – which isn’t always the case in a restaurant that serves mostly curry dishes. You order from a tablet (English menu available) and choose between five types of curry sauces, with one being vegetarian,and tons and tons of toppings and extras. AS a vegetarian you can get aubergine, mixed vegetable, spinach, mushrooms… with a side of  croquette, eggs or cheese. I find it very tasty and satisfying – and it probably saved me from getting drunk from five highballs and a bit of sake!

CoCo Curry: cheap, filling, foreigner friendly (multi language menu)


I have three really nice suggestions here. My absolute favourite would be Hiroshimatei, not far from the Gotomachi tram stop, a leisurely 5-mine walk from JR Nagasaki station. A real tiny family-run restaurant in a large thoroughfare, this served the best okonomiyaki and small dishes, accompanied by huge longdrinks or tankards of beer. Not a fancy place, but really friendly.  Prices were ridiculously low, too.

Hiroshimatei, so friendly and welcoming. And the food extremely tasty

If you like it atmospheric, a place like out of a film set is Okonomiyaki Umenoya (お好み焼 梅乃屋), in a small street about 100m walk from Shiambashi tram stop. Again, very vintage interior, lovely older couple running it, very nice okonomiyaki.

Last not least, should you find yourself in the Urakami area, there are at least five to choose from. My neighbourhood restaurant, a mere footsteps from my temporary home, was Tentekomai (てんてこまい), meaning “too busy” and indeed it wasn’t easy to get in, although these small restaurant will always do their best to squeeze in a single diner. Super busy, with a boisterous bar area where everything is cooked in front of you, sake bottles with regulars names kind of place.

Last not least, pretty much all onsen offer meals or at least hot and cold drinks and snacks, and you can normally stay in the rest area for as long as you like. There is no need to rush out.

Where to Stay in Nagasaki

Nagasaki is full of hotels and inns, most belonging to local or national chains. The most convenient area to stay is the JR Nagasaki Station. If you love nightlife, Chinchi Chinatown is your place to stay. The perfect balance of all is the lovely residential area between the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture and the train station. Easy to walk, or two stops on the tram.

What follows are my personal recommendations – all of which I stayed in. I will have a specific Nagasaki post up soon, which will have more detailed hotel reviews on it.

If you prefer Chic Minimalist and (mostly) Western Style, check out Grand Base Nagasaki City and Grand Base Nakamachi. These lovely apartment hotels are in walking distance from JR Nagasaki Station in a really nice residential area. Quiet, well-equipped and stylish, they cost around 80 to 100 Euro per night, but apartments are super spacious and suitable for families.

Not far away, Relaxing Inn Origami is a great choice for travellers who prefer a Japanese style room. Again, a relatively small modern building, with just a few rooms. On the first floor, there is a small cafe and bar and some Western Style rooms, whereas the second floor is very Japanese, down to the corridor and huge family bath. They even have a small cafe on site and roast their own coffee. I found it quirky, yet quintessentially Japanese, all the way to the classic futon and backless chairs.

Relaxing in the city: my husband watching sunset at Origami in my study/breakfast nook

Like in every Japanese city, you will find plenty of business hotels in Nagasaki. Comfortable, clean, no frills but amenities like fridges, microwaves, these are incredible value. The S Peria Hotel was my pick, as for about 40 Euros I could get a really nice small room, even with a desk! Location is extremely central, on a main road, with a tram stop, a shopping mall and some really good cafes and restaurants right at your doorstep.

And last not least, my personal favourite because it’s unbeatable value for money and the people who run it are lovely:  Himawari Hotel  is my budget recommendation. It’s in Urakami, so handy for the university and Atomic Bomb Museum, a small spartan hotel with huge comfortable rooms, ample space and … it was about 20 Euro per night. You’ll have trouble finding a hostel bed for this. The catch? It got a few unfavourable reviews, and maybe this is why it’s not more popular. I stayed there for two weeks, and felt very comfortable there. Yes, the rooms are bare, but I slept well and managed to study there, it was really peaceful.

In Unzen, I recommend HUB Unzen, a small modern inn for a scenic, central and budget-friendly stay in a studio overlooking the lake, and Unzen Iwaki Ryokan, a centrally located traditional ryokan. Both have room starting around 80 Euro per night. Unzen, being a resort location, has some very large (and very expensive) hotels, so if nothing suits your budget, consider staying in Nagasaki. There aren’t a lot of budget-friendly pretty hotels in either Shimabara or Isahaya.

I have some further accommodation options outside Nagasaki in my post about Sonogi.

The Small Print

I visited Nagasaki and these onsen while on a professional course in May 2023. As always, I have no sponsorship, all expenses were paid by myself, all unbiased reviews. The accommodations links are affiliate links to

If you have any questions about onsen or Nagasaki, feel free to drop me a line or comment. I spent six week in Nagasaki so I know the city fairly well from a tourist point of view now.

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14 thoughts on “Relax at Nagasaki Onsen – with a detailed onsen guide”

  • Looks like an interesting experience. I think the chlorine would unfortunately ruin the experience for me.

    • Hi Sonia, the onsen are definitely interesting. The water was lightly chlorinated in the bigger onsen, not in Kojigoku where the water is basically constantly moving in and out, and there are relatively few visitors. I think they have some hygiene standards they must adhere to. I really hate chlorine, too, haven’t been to a public swimming baths in ages and avoid chlorinated hotel pools. It was ok for me, just a minimal whiff, no skin issues.

  • I’ve never heard of this but think Japan would be a great place to visit. You make it that way as well.

    • Hi, thank you for your comment! Nagasaki is a bit off the travellers radar – this is why I love it 🙂

    • Hi Laura, yes, indeed! There is some vigorous scrubbing and shampooing before entering the water, and these baths are incredibly clean! Although I don’t speak much Japanese, I just observed what others were doing, it was fine

    • Hi Lucia, thank you for your comment! I have not had one bad meal in Japan in six weeks, the food is all over lovely.

  • I hadn’t heard of an onsen until I read your post. I enjoyed learning about the experience and appreciate your tips.

    • Hi Michelle, thank you for your comment! YOu can fund onsen pretty much everywhere in Japan, and visiting one is a real experience – if you love hot water

  • Such an informative post! I found it very interesting that tattoos are not allowed. Very good to know

    • Hi Katie, thank you for your comment! Although tattoo is becoming more and more common and accepted in Japan, some onsen can be relatively strict about their no tattoo rules. I did see a couple small tattoos in the female onsen on a white person, I guess they may be okay of very small and no one is bothering. Always safer to ask, or book a private bath.

  • I am adding this to my list of places to visit when I head to Japan!

    • Hi Stephanie, thank you! I hope you visit Japan, and have a chance to visit Kyushu. It may not be a “top tier” destinations but for me it was the best place in Japan so far.

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