Jozankei is the closest onsen town to Sapporo. It is about an hour drive away from the city, which makes it easily accessible to people who want to escape the urban jungles.
It’s a highly recommended place to visit if you love soaking in the hot natural mineral waters of Hokkaido. Personally, I love the outdoor baths best because I love sitting in the warm water and looking at the beautiful scenery. Depending on the temperature of the water, I can sit from 10 to thirty minutes. If it’s too hot, I usually give up quickly and head on to the indoor bath.
However, I am not a big fan of the indoor baths. One, I have tattoos and I am very conscious of them when I go to the onsen. I know that I shouldn’t be in the facilities because it’s not really allowed. But secondly, I find the atmosphere to be stiflingly humid. I can hardly breathe because the humidity makes it unbearable.
I love going in the fall and in the winter. After washing yourself thoroughly in the bath, you brace yourself to go out, get hit by a blast of cold air, and rush to enter into the hot water. It’s the best part of the whole process.
In Hokkaido, there are many different types of onsen water. Each area you go to has different types of minerals in the water, too. And this affects the smell of the water. Some are clear with a stronger sulfur smell to them. Some of them are brownish or even a really dark “Coke” color with hardly any smell.
From summer to fall, Jozankei hosts an illumination event where the Futami Bridge is lit up by a small light show. The path leading up to the bridge has different displays of light works and the bridge features a short sequence of projection mapping.
Depending on your budget, you can stay at Jozankei cheaply at a bare-bones budget hotel or more luxuriously at the higher end onsen hotels. There is also a day pass and bus that lets you enjoy just the waters without having to stay the night. This is ideal for people pressed for time.
Just as a caveat, though, restaurants in Jozankei basically don’t exist. If you make a booking for a stay, make sure your reservation includes dinner or breakfast. If you’re thinking on saving money by not including the meals, don’t bother. There are hardly any places to eat in the town. Either that or you can rely on convenience store food. Just make sure you have dinner planned before arriving.
My husband and I forgot that fact on our most recent trip. I got a good deal on the room we had booked but I didn’t want to pay the extra cost of dinner so I didn’t include it. I mistakenly thought we would be able to find a place to have dinner. That didn’t happen. The hotel restaurants that we went to were all fully booked and had no room for customers with no dinner reservations. We ended up eating at a very small hole-in-the-wall restaurant for the evening. There was hardly anything on the menu as it was a place for local staff to eat cafeteria food. It definitely down graded the experience for us.