Onsen or Japanese hot spring is one of the to-dos for Muslims when visiting Japan, especially during winter. However, Onsens are usually available in main cities and usually in Ryokans (Japanese Inns), hotels or resorts.
For a Muslim traveler, looking an Onsen can be quite difficult as not many are Muslim-friendly and serve halal food. However, in the past two to three years, some Japanese hot spring operators have started to introduce Muslim-friendly hot springs.
Some of these Onsen now serve halal food and also provide Muslim amenities like prayer rooms and Muslim women only Onsen. Most of them are found in hotels or Ryokans, while some of them are private hot springs with Muslim-friendly facilities.
The entrance to Ryokan Sawanoya in Tokyo
Ryokan Sawanoya Tokyo
Ryokan Sawanoya is probably one of the closest local Ryokan-Onsen in Tokyo that offers attractive Japanese public baths with two options: round or rectangular pools. These are private and are limited to only 2 adults per entry and can be used until late night. This is suitable for Muslim couples who want to experience Onsen in Japan without being seen by others.
At Ryokan Sawanoya, the facilities are up to standard and the location is quite convenient as it is nearby to some shops in the area. Ueno, a popular shopping area, is about 20 -30 mins walk away.
The ryokan also offers free Wi-Fi, self-service laundry service, English speaking staffs, air-conditioned rooms and easy access to subway stations.
A single room without bathroom and toilet is priced at 5,400 yen (8% Tax included) per night. Twin room with bathroom and toilet is 11,232 yen (8% Tax included) per night.
The ryokan serves only Western style breakfast, priced at 324 yen (8% Tax included) per person. They are not halal-certified but is Muslim friendly. Let them know if you require Muslim friendly facilities when you do your booking.
In Kannawa, Hyotan Onsen is a Muslim-friendly Onsen that provides private baths for singles and couples. Hyotan is also the only Onsen in Japan that is awarded 3 Stars by the Michelin Guide Book. The place is not 100% halal as beer is sold. However, their food selection does not offer pork.
As for sets, they offer are vegetable sets and chicken tempura sets. They serve steamed vegetables, eggs and seafood as selection. They do not have the halal logo and but they are Muslim-friendly, therefore it is advisable to inform them in advance.
The unique Sand Bath at Hyotan Onsen
For the private baths and family baths, there are nine different baths to choose from. These private baths are coin-machine operated, and you can check in at the front desk and book your private bath.
Other types of baths available at Hyotan Onsen;
Foot bath – free of charge
Steam bath – Traditional Japanese Saunas
Sand bath – You cover yourself with sand heated by the steam from the hot spring
Waterfall bath – Open concept bath for both men and women
Outdoor bath – For those who prefer to relax in nature
Hyotan Hot Springs
Opening hours: 9:00 AM – 1:00 AM Daily
Closed: Certain days in April, July and December
Address: 159-2 Kannawa, Beppu-shi, Oita-ken
Private Onsen at Kinugawa Park Hotels
Kinugawa Park Hotels
Kinugawa Park Hotels offers indoor and outdoor hot springs with baths for men and women separately. There are varieties of hot spring baths such as ancient Japanese cypress bath, barrel shaped bath, boat shaped bath, and open air baths.
For singles, couples or families, Kinugawa Park Hotels offers four private open air baths that can be booked in advance. For those who want to only use the hot spring, the price is 864 yen (towels not included).
Kinugawa Park hotels also cater to guests with special requests like vegetarian food (Syoujin Ryouri) and also Muslim-friendly food for Muslim guests.
For the halal menu, the hotel provides special dinnerware, a special kitchen with special equipment, and specialized food ingredients which are halal. They also provide a prayer room facilities (Surau) that can be used anytime.
Kinugawa Park Hotels
Tel: +81 0288-77-1289
Open: 8.00 AM to 8.00 PM, Daily
Address: 1409 Ohara Kinugawa-onsen, Nikko-shi, Tochigi, Japan
View of the Otaru Kourakuen Hotel in Hokkaido
Otaru Kourakuen Hotel Hokkaido
Otaru Kourakuen is one of the higher end Muslim-friendly hotels in Hokkaido that offers private Onsen for singles, couples and families. They operate a Finnish-style hot spring spa in a private room, complete with a sofa, television and dressing room. Price is about 2160 yen for 45 mins.
Other types of Japanese Onsen includes the general open air hot spring, public bath, bedrock bath and a few other types. As for the food, Otaru Kourakuen offers halal certified meats like beef and chicken. They provide 100% halal food here. You need to inform them when you book if you need a Muslim-friendly package.
Lunch and dinner can be sent to your room for privacy or you can have it is a private dining room in the hotel. They also provide halal breakfast and prayer rooms. When you book the Muslim-friendly package, they will prepare a prayer mat in your room and a map of halal shops, restaurants and mosques in the area.
A halal compliant lakeside hotel just outside of the Kyoto district is perfect for any Muslims visiting this area. From the hotel, it takes about one hour by train to reach Kyoto. The hotel is located in the southern part of Lake Biwa.
The halal food served here is also certified by the Kyoto Council for Shariah and Halal Affairs. Their main halal chef has a special menu where you can order traditional Japanese sets and dishes.
For the hot springs, they only provide outdoor Onsen. There are no private baths available. The Onsen opens from 6.00 AM to 9.30 AM and 3.00 PM to 12.00 AM.
One of the easiest Onsen to access from Tokyo is the Hakone Yuryo Onsen. They offer open air Onsen and also 19 private room Onsen. Prices for the private room Onsen are from 4000 to 6000 yen per hour. However, to use the private room Onsen, you need to book up to one month in advance.
Apart from this, the Onsen offers different types of baths which include indoor, outdoor, pottery baths and sauna facilities. The Onsen opens on weekdays from 10.00 AM to 9.00 PM and 10.00 AM to 10.00 PM on weekends. There is no halal-certified menu here, so you will need to double-check with them for Muslim-friendly food.
There are probably many other Onsens with private facilities in other parts of Japan. This guide is to inform Muslim travelers that you can actually choose a private Onsen to experience the traditional hot spring baths in privacy.
When you book a ryokan or Onsen hotel, just inquire if they have private Onsen and Muslim-friendly facilities and meals. The Onsen listed in this article are either Muslim-friendly or halal-certified. As a traveler, you will always need to double check this before booking.
A multiple award-winning travel writer, blogger and social media enthusiast. He has been traveling to Japan since 1990 and all over the world for his work. His work has been featured on CNN Travel, Yahoo Travel, Lonely Planet and many other publications. David writes at: http://malaysia-asia.my and is on social media platforms as @MalaysiaAsia