Exploring Bath Culture: A One-of-a-Kind Experience at Osaka's SpaWorld Hotel and Resort

At SpaWorld Hotel and Resort in a historical South Osaka neighborhood, you can experience bath culture from around the world, and so much more.

このページを 日本語 で読む

As an American expatriate who has called Japan home for over two decades, I have a special affinity for the country's hot springs and traditional sento (public baths). Yet, despite my knowledge and experience of Japan's bath culture, none of my previous experiences quite compare to my visit to SpaWorld. 

I invite you to join me on a chronicle of my recent visit to SpaWorld Resort and Hotel. SpaWorld turned out to be far more than the hot springs resort I had expected. Its roots in the history of a South Osaka neighborhood and ongoing efforts to improve the local economy make it more than a tourist attraction. It is an integral part of its surrounding community. 

A South Osaka Landmark

Nestled in the vibrant heart of South Osaka, SpaWorld Hotel and Resort is a testament to the rejuvenation of a once-troubled neighborhood. In the not-so-distant past, the area had a reputation for being a rough neighborhood in dire financial straits, with many residents even homeless. 

Varied views of Tsutenkaku Tower from SpaWorld's rooftop heated infinity pool. (©JAPAN Forward by Mika Sugiura)

With the opening of Universal Studios Japan (USJ) in 2001, things began to change. USJ drew in new tourists who stayed a few days and were eager to explore other parts of the city too. SpaWorld played no small part in this transformation and has become an attraction in itself.

Even at midday during the week, a carnival atmosphere pervades in the nearby amusement arcades. (©JAPAN Forward by Mika Sugiura)

The neighborhood around SpaWorld is called Shinseikai, or 'New World'. It boasts lively bars, restaurants (with the famous kushi-katsu being a standout), and iconic landmarks like the Tsutenkaku Tower. Stepping into its streets feels like a journey back in time to the Showa Era, complete with nostalgic shateki (shooting game) carnival-like activities in a covered mall arcade.

Visitors from Near and Afar

With approximately one million visitors annually, SpaWorld has become a magnet for people seeking to experience Japanese bath and relaxation culture. Notably, about 20% of visitors are non-Japanese, with Europeans and Koreans comprising a significant portion. 

SpaWorld CEO Keisuke Iwasaki in front of SpaWorld's big sign. (©JAPAN Forward by Mika Sugiura)

According to Spaworld's CEO Keisuke Iwasaki, these cultures have their own bath culture, which makes them more likely to visit SpaWorld on their journeys to Japan.

In July 2023, SpaWorld re-opened as the renovated SpaWorld Hotel & Resort. It now offers guests from around the globe a sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Promoting Bath Culture

SpaWorld is not your typical 'super sento,' an upscaled version of the public bath that offers massage services, restaurants, and sometimes even games and manga-reading rooms. It's a full-on amusement park for bath enthusiasts. 

There are 17 distinct baths representing 12 countries in total. The baths are divided into two separate areas, one with an Asian theme and one European. The areas are rotated monthly by gender to ensure everyone has a chance to experience both.

The first bath--a romanesque pool. (Photo courtesy of SpaWorld)

As a seasoned bath and sauna enthusiast in Japan, I was pleased to visit when women were assigned the European area. The first bath, a Romanesque pool, immediately snatched my imagination away to ancient times. From the Blue Grotto-themed cave-like pool to the Spanish-inspired open-air waterfalls, each bath offered a unique sensory experience. My favorite was the Greecian baths, both because there was an aroma bath and they were the hottest!

Finland-style wooden sauna, with both high-temp and low-temp options. (Photo courtesy of SpaWorld)

I found SpaWorld to be a veritable paradise. Did I mention the saunas? These were just as diverse as the baths with about every kind you can imagine – infrared high temp, salt, steam, aroma steam, and even an outdoor "barrel sauna" (my fave). 

Sitting in the barrel sauna inhaling aromatic steam and enjoying a view of Tsutenkaku Tower through the window was a highlight of my visit. An invigorating cold plunge afterward in the rooftop's cold bath made the experience perfect.


SpaWorld is a facility of colossal proportions. Exploring it fully requires at least an overnight stay or multiple visits. It offers a truly one-of-a-kind experience of Japanese, and global, bath culture.

And it's not all about bathing. The pool area, complete with water slides, is popular among families. 

A bath themed after the lost underworld of Atlantis. (Photo courtesy of SpaWorld)

Unlike in the baths, visitors wear bathing suits in the pool area, allowing families or couples to have time together (the barrel sauna and roof-top pools are in the bathing suit/mixed gender area too). To top it all off there is an outdoor bar where you can lounge with a beverage (while still in the pool!). 

Special Environmental Efforts

Beyond offering a haven for relaxation, SpaWorld is committed to environmental stewardship and community engagement. 

The water used in its baths, showers, and pools comes from three sources – hot springs, groundwater, and city water service. The groundwater, used in showers and some of the baths, is filtered for safety.

bath culture
The rooftop "barrel sauna" provides a one-of-a-kind luxurious experience. (©JAPAN Forward by Mika Sugiura)

The establishment also actively contributes to community-building initiatives. It offers complimentary visits to groups from schools for children with disabilities. SpaWorld also stands ready to serve as a temporary evacuation facility in the event of a Nankai Trough earthquake.

Future Developments

By 2031, a new rail line is set to connect Kansai International Airport to the nearby Shin-Imamiya Station. SpaWorld anticipates an influx of new visitors, presenting more opportunities to bolster the local economy. Renovations are also underway to enhance the facility.

One of the eight types of hot stone baths (ganban yoku) that will be part of my next visit! (©JAPAN Forward by Mika Sugiura)

SpaWorld Hotel and Resort is more than just a destination — it's an experience. While the baths alone are reason enough to pay a visit, the added allure of the vibrant neighborhood with its food and entertainment options make it a must-see attraction in Osaka. 

For those seeking a truly immersive getaway, I highly recommend spending the night to fully savor all that SpaWorld has to offer. I ran out of time during my one-night stay and missed the ganban yoku, or hot-stone bathing. So I know I'll go again. 

SpaWorld is a Logo Partner of Japan 2 Earth.

このページを 日本語 で読む