Hot Spring Heaven
Hokkaido offers a seductive spectrum of onsen, or hot spring baths, with both lavish facilities in luxurious modern resorts and simple hot spring pools deep in the mountains. Every onsen-phile has their favorite, but two in particular appeal to me. If you like the idea of lounging in hot spring splendor looking directly onto a gorgeous lake, grab your tiny towel—remember, that’s all you’re allowed to bring into the bath!—and head for Marukoma Onsen Ryokan, located right on Lake Shikotsu in western Hokkaido. If views of greenery are more enticing, Yawaraginosato Hoheikyo Onsen, about an hour from Sapporo, is set among hills that are green in spring, summer, and fall and white with snow in winter. You’ll find three rotenburo—outdoor hot spring baths—all with exceptional views, and renowned for the mineral-rich spring water that flows in from the surrounding mountains.
By Don George, @don_george