First Timer's Guide to the Japanese Onsen

Japan is a country that is abundant with hot springs which are locally called onsen. These are commonly found in hotels, spas, public baths, and traditional Japanese inns called ryokans. There are even onsen resort towns found all around the country like Arima, Beppu, Hakone, Yufuin, Kusatsu, and many more.

First Timer's Guide to the Japanese Onsen

What sets the Japanese onsen apart from the hot springs of other countries are the traditions that surround it. Although breaking these traditions won't land you to jail, it would most likely gain you the irk of locals or worse would get you kicked out of the establishment. 

Got this from the guidebook of Honjin Hiranoya Bekkan

This article is written so that you would be aware of some of the most common but important traditions before taking that first time dip in an onsen.

1. Remove what should be removed

Before entering the changing room of an onsen establishment, make sure to remove your footwear first and change to the bathroom slippers that the establishment provides. Worry not as they have racks or lockers where you can store your precious footwear. Once inside the changing room should remove all your clothes and stow them in the provided baskets before storing them in a locker. The key to these lockers is usually attached to a bracelet-like contraption that you could wear while taking a dip. Overall, you should be naked when entering the bathing area. Worry not you can grab one of that tiny scrap of cloth called a modesty towel which you could use to cover your privates while walking around in the bathing area.

2. Shower first before dipping

Stripping down all your clothes does not mean you could immediately dip in the onsen. You should take a shower first at one of the slots in the shower areas. Make sure to thoroughly scrub your body. Be sure that you rinse off the soap bubbles from your body before leaving. 

3. Time to take a dip

Never get too excited and jump in an onsen. Keep in mind that its water is hot (usually around 40-44 degrees Celius). Splash some water from the onsen to your lower body first until you get used to the water. The Japanese call this kakeyu. Once ready, dip your feet and slowly soak your body until the water reaches your shoulder. Although soaking in an onsen gives you a lot of health benefits soaking for long periods of time might put you in danger. Stay in the water for just around 5-15 minutes. Leave the water immediately if you feel dizzy. 

4. Finishing touches

Once you're done with your soak, head back to the shower room and once again take a shower. Make sure to dry yourself thoroughly before heading back to the changing room.

5. Wrapping up

In the dressing room, place your modesty towel and bath towel in the hamper. Some onsen establishments provide hygiene kits like toothbrushes, lotions, shaving kits, and others that you can use. Make sure to dispose of them after usage. After dressing up, leave the locker open with the key at the keyhole. Finally, check your stuff before leaving.

That's it, congratulations on your first onsen experience. 

However, it is also important to keep in mind these onsen etiquettes during your visit:

  • Don't take photos inside the onsen area for privacy reasons. Face it, this is one of those experiences that you shouldn't post in your social media accounts. Instead, just savor the moment. 
  • Avoid screaming, laughing, and talking aloud when in an onsen as it is considered very rude and would surely ruin other's relaxation time. 
  • Don't swim in the onsen. The onsen is not a pool. Just sit there and relax. 
  • Never put your towel in the water. Just place it at the edge of the water close to you or on top of your head. 
  • Don't scrub your body in the onsen. Do that in the shower room. The onsen is only for dipping.
  • Never spit in the onsen!
  • Never gargle or drink onsen water.
  • For women, with long hair, make sure that you tie your hair as it might get in the way of others. Also, be mindful of the strands of your hair that might fall and float in the water. Be kind enough to get it and dispose of it.
  • Lastly, never ever pee in the onsen. 
I hope this article is helpful to you. Enjoy your onsen experience!


Comments

  1. OOO This sounds really amazing!! I want to go here!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should try out the onsen when you are in Japan.

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  2. Good to know. I think it should be rule of thumb everywhere to rinse off before entering a public water area. Thank you for sharing!

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  3. Yes yes, Japan always in my to travel again & again list :D Wising to travel to enjoy Japanese onsen soon ya. cheers, siennylovesdrawing

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    Replies
    1. Cheers! I do hope you try out that Japanese onsen when you visit.

      Delete
  4. This is a very informative post about guiding people to japan.

    Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Bath Tub looks so tempting! Thanks for sharing.

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  6. a lot of good things in Japan but too much protocol

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    Replies
    1. That's true. Thank goodness I did not get that tattoo that I wanted. =)

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  7. I am really interested in hot springs, and I understand why all the rules, it's to keep it nice and relaxing for all the people there, it must be an amazing experience to be in an onsen :O

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    Replies
    1. I have to agree. My onsen experience is really one of the best experiences that I had when I was in Japan.

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  8. I’d love to try a Japanese onset! Im a wellness girl so this is so for me!

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  9. Definitely trying the onsen when we visit Japan! As always, the photos are amazing!

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  10. Oh wow...that's some pretty strict etiquette.

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  11. Thanks for sharing all the information here and your experience. I will keep those point in my mind while visiting this place.
    Elizabeth O

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  12. This is a perfect guide. Strict policy with cutesy illustrations.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Blair. I hope this would be useful on your future onsen experience.

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  13. Even the simplest of gestures can make such a huge difference !

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  14. Thank you for this, it's always good to know these things before you have a new experience.

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  15. These are really good tips. I have always wondered how it goes. Thanks for the insider.

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    Replies
    1. You should try it out. You and your husband would surely love the experience.

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  16. very helpful . tnks for sharing

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  17. I am saving this post again. Although, I am aware of the basic rules but I did not know that you cannot do picture taking. Some of my friends have sent me their photos while they were dipping themselves. BTW, the drawing/caricature made me laugh, it's cute.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. =) Hahaha. The illustrations made me laugh as well. I'm happy that my article is of help. Thank you for visiting.

      Delete

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