The relatively small yet dynamic Minakami Onsen sits nestled snugly in the valley of the Tanigawa mountain range. The beautiful Tone River runs right alongside this onsen resort, and is also one of the main attractions of this town.
The Minakami area itself is quite a popular hot spring destination. Its close proximity and easy-to-get to location from Tokyo makes it a day trip or overnight trip of choice.
Minakami Onsen is one of the largest developed areas in Minakami, offering multiple hot spring ryokans and hotels in one convenient area. There are also many other smaller, more rustic style onsen resorts located around Minakami as well. They include Takaragawa Onsen, Tanigawa Onsen, and Sarugakyo Onsen.
Minakami Onsen offers a variety of activities throughout the year so it’s a great destination for a variety of reasons. In summer, its adjacent Tone River attracts adventurous people far and wide to raft and canoe through its crystal waters. In winter, the nine neighbouring ski resorts offer a variety of snow activities and ski levels for anyone chasing snow.
Minakami Onsen is the perfect little town to visit with all your family and friends.
How to get to Minakami Onsen from Tokyo
Luckily for anyone staying in Tokyo, it’s only one quick train and bus ride away!
From Tokyo Station, take the JR Joetsu Toki shinkansen towards Niigata and hop off at Jomo-Kogen station. From Jomo-Kogen, take the Kanetsu Transport regular route bus and hop off at Minakami Onsen.
The entire trip should cost around 6,000 yen and take just over 90 minutes.
Where to stay in Minakami Onsen
Micasa is one of the top pick ryokans to stay in Minakami. This beautiful traditional Japanese inn is located only 1.2km away from the main Minakami Onsen area. If you arrive at Minakami station or Jomo-Kogen station, you can request for a pickup service.
The guest rooms here are all spacious and some offer sweeping views of the river. Others offer quaint open-air baths that are the perfect thing to come home to after a long day at the ski slopes. If you opt for a room without a private bath, there are communal ones that you can also use.
A beautiful breakfast is served to guests every morning here.
Book It Now: Micasa Ryokan
The 5-star luxurious Bettei Senjyuan is a world-class ryokan fit for kings and queens. Nestled next to Tanigawa-dake, the generous-sizes guest rooms offer sweeping views of the peaceful and glorious mountain.
Bettei Senjyuan offers its guests exquisite private onsens within all rooms, an on-site spa for all guests, 5-star Japanese cuisine, and even private onsen baths outside of the guest rooms for you to book if you wish.
The guest rooms boast traditional tatami floors and shoji paper screen doors for that Japanese Zen experience. For your comfort, they also offer air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs, and en suite bathrooms.
Take your time to enjoy the massage services, sauna, and library to wind down.
Book It Now: Bettei Senjyuan
The Best Things to do in Minakami Onsen
1. Go Onsen-Hopping
Of course, the number one thing to do in Minakami Onsen is to experience its world-class onsen baths!
As you can see from above, there are a variety of ryokans that offer onsen baths to choose from. Whether you’re a budget traveller or someone looking for a premium experience, there is an option for you! One thing that doesn’t change, however, is the Minakami Onsen experience.
The most notable thing about Minakami Onsen hot springs is the quality of the water. This particular area is known for its calcium sulfate water quality. The water is generally clear and colourless, and is said to be gentle on wounds, rashes, and even skin worries such as acne!
If you’re only looking to do a day trip to Minakami Onsen, that doesn’t mean you need to miss out on the amazing onsen experiences. In fact, many hotels and ryokans also offer the option of “daily bathing” for non-staying guests for a small fee of 500-1500 yen.
There are also quite a few public bath houses that day-trippers can visit whilst in the area.
Hoshi Onsen Chojukan
This onsen is located far in the mountains of Minakami. The surrounding is tranquil and a lovely escape from the city. The baths themselves are super rustic. Its most popular one is a mixed gender indoor onsen so this is a great option for partners!
- Address: 650 Nagai, Minakami, Tone District, Gunma 379-1401, Japan
- Hours: 10:30am – 2:00pm (Closed Wednesdays and January 1-3)
- Price: 1,000 yen
Yuterume Tanigawa Onsen
This one is a relatively modern bath house which looks over to the beautiful Mount Tanigawa. There are plenty of bath options here include outdoor rotenburo baths set among the Tone River and generous sized indoor baths.
- Address: Yuterume Tanigawa Onsen
- Hours: 10:00am – 8:30pm (Closed 3rd Thursday each month)
- Price: 630 yen
Mantenboshi no Yu
This public bathhouse, which is located at the nearby Sarugakyo Onsen, looks over the peaceful Lake Akaya. It’s a popular one as it’s definitely one of the more equipped bathhouses. It offers multiple indoor and outdoor bathing options, onsite restaurants, and even massage services. It’s located is one of the biggest selling points, as it’s right next door to an event hall that hosts kabuki performances.
- Address: 1150-1 Sarugakyoonsen, Minakami, Tone District, Gunma 379-1403, Japan
- Hours: 10:00am – 9:30pm (closed Tuesdays)
- Price: 800 yen/3 hours
2. Be Adventurous and Try Watersports
Most people may look to visit Minakami Onsen during winter. However, spring and summer in this area also offers some unforgettable experiences!
As the snow melts around April every year, the rapids of the adjacent Tone River really pick up. This makes it the perfect spot for adventurous water activities.
Some of the most popular activities around this area include canyoning, rafting, and kayaking.
Canyoning is a relatively new sport in Japan, but its popularity has just soared. It involves climbing up rocks and sliding through rocky canyons in a wetsuit. It’s a high-power, adrenaline-rushing sport that would be an wild experience.
White-water rafting has always been a popular summer activity in Japan. It involves getting into an inflatable raft with 6 or more other people and manoeuvring through the rapids together.
Kayaking is a relatively lower-adrenaline activity but it’s still fun and can be enjoyed by anyone of all ages.
3. Minakami Ski Resorts
Winter is one of the busiest seasons in Japan. Snow-chasers from all over the world visit this wonderful country to experience the superior snowfall that happens every year from December until February, and sometimes even longer.
Ski resorts like Hakuba and Niseko often garner the biggest crowds for their incredible runs and large size. However, if you’re looking for a more intimate local experience, Minakami Onsen is the one.
For one, its close proximity to Tokyo means that you won’t have to lug around your ski equipment too far (that’s if you brought your own). For another, there’s a whopping nine different ski resorts located in and around the Minakami area alone. You will never get bored!
You most likely won’t be able to visit all of them during the one trip to Minakami Onsen. If you do plan to visit one, it’s best to do a bit of research to see which one is most suitable for the experience that you are after.
For example, White Valley Ski Resort offers many ungroomed areas and natural terrain to explore. This is a good option for experienced skiers and snowboarders looking for that extra bit of adventure.
Hodaigi Ski Resort offers various levels of courses for all types of skiers. There’s even a 1000m long course there!
If you’re with a family with young kids, don’t fret. All the ski resorts offer plenty of sledding areas where kids can just play in the snow or rent sleds to ride down the gentle slopes.
If you are interested in winter sports in Japan, feel free to also read this blog post: Where to ski in Japan.
4. Experience the Local Cuisine
If you didn’t know already, the mountainous Gunma prefecture is known for its unique konjac and Joshu Mugibuta pork. The restaurants in and around Minakami have taken this on board and offer tantalising dishes of both local and fusion inspirations.
They use said fresh local ingredients with seasonal fruits and vegetables to create wonderful unique dining experiences for all visitors.
One such dish is ‘sashimi konjac’. These are basically slices of konjac gel that you eat like sashimi. With its smooth texture and non-offensive taste and smell, it is best eaten with sumiso and soy sauce.
If you’re looking for a Joshu Mugibuta experience, check out Cafeteria Pegasus which is located at the Hodaigi Ski Resort. One of the most popular dishes here is the joshu-mugibuta curry. This dish consists of the joshu-mugibuta pork fried as a katsu cutlet, served with rice and Japanese curry. The pork is relatively un-scented. There is also a joshu-mugibuta pork rice (aka don) to check out as well!
For those with a sweet tooth, raw dorayaki is a Minakami specialty! Here they add fresh cream to dorayaki, the Japanese traditional small pancake with sweet red bean filling. You can experience this at Koarai Confectionarys in Minakami.
- Address: 1680-20 Yubara, Minakami, Tone District, Gunma 379-1617, Japan
- Hours: 8:00am – 6:00am
After writing this, even we are getting excited to visit Minakami! It’s rare that one area alone has such a wide variety of activities to participate in, so Minakami Onsen really is a gem.
From white-water rafting down rapids in summer, to skiing down 1000m slopes in winter, it’s the perfect holiday choice for everyone.