Onsens, or hot springs, are a big part of life in Japan. People from around the country will spend their weekends bathing in the volcanic spring water, benefiting from the minerals that are proven to improve blood circulation and clear skin. You can find resorts, or ryokans, throughout Japan, but our suggestion is to visit the small and atmospheric spring town of Yamagata (three hours from Tokyo by train), which is famous for its wooden buildings that sit along a river. In the winter, the snow drapes the brightly lit houses to create a magical alpine scene, which makes the steaming onsen you will be retreating to even more inviting.
Stay here: Ginzan Onsen at the Fujiya Inn
You are spoiled for choice in Yamagata, but the Ginzan hot spring at the 300-year-old Fujiya Inn is our pick. There are five private baths, including one on the roof that overlooks the mountains. Designed by Mr Kengo Kuma, one of Japan’s most famous architects, it marries the town’s traditional aesthetics with bamboo-layered modernist architecture. The star here is the hostess Ms Jeanie Fuji, whose attention to detail has made her a minor celebrity in Japan. Her emphasis on her guests’ wellbeing will leave you fully restored.