Visiting an onsen, or hot spring, is absolutely something everyone who comes to Japan should do at least once. Unfortunately, many onsen are located in rural parts of the countries that require lengthy detours from travel itineraries that are focused on seeing the cool sites of Japan’s largest cities.
But this month there’s a brand-new onsen opening right in the middle of downtown Osaka. The Solaniwa Onsen Osaka Bay Tower is located right across the street from Bentencho Station, and unlike some other urban onsen that ship in hot spring water from other parts of the country in tanker trucks, Solaniwa draws the water for its baths from a spring that’s located directly beneath the building.
Though it won’t be open to the public for a few more days, we got to stop by for a sneak preview. The interior takes cues from the Azuchi-Momoyama period, which corresponds to the late 16th century, and the lobby area has a number of traditional Japanese accents.
▼ Our reporter Masami, who was quite happy to take this assignment instead of participating in our in-office matcha cricket taste test
To help customers relax, you’re given a lightweight kimono-style robe upon check-in, with a variety of men’s, women’s, and children’s sizes and patterns to choose from. You may wonder what the point is in getting dressed up if you’re supposed to be nude when you enter the baths (as is the custom in Japan), but as we’ll see there are also plenty of fully clothed common-use areas in the sprawling 16,528-square meter (177,906-square foot) complex.
First, though, let’s take a look at the baths, which are gender-segregated and allow for both indoor and open-air soaking.
You can even get the best of both worlds with indoor baths that shield you from the elements while giving you a tranquil view of the landscaping.