Onsen Hot Spring Bath in Japan





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Published on Jun 3, 2009

Natural hot springs or onsen are almost everywhere and very popular across Japan. Every region of the country has its share of hot springs and resort towns. Some of the resorts are large and you may find a busy locker room and large shower area without privacy, however getting into the actual tub, after the washing and such, is a very nice experience. A sauna and cooling tub with bubbles may also come with the package. I usually go later at night and get some time to myself in the bath. The whole experience reminds me of Roman times described in text books but with the Japanese way as a model.

There are many types of hot springs, distinguished by the minerals dissolved in the water. Different minerals provide different health benefits, and all hot springs are supposed to have a relaxing effect on your body and mind. Some of these springs are so popular that coffee tea and other foods are made with the exotic tasting water.

Hot spring baths come in many varieties, indoors and outdoors, gender separated and mixed although mixed sex onsen or baths are more uncommon these days. Many hot spring baths belong to a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), while others are public bath houses. An overnight stay at a hot spring ryokan is a highly recommended experience to any visitor of Japan. At the onsen though you may find geothermally heated spring water, artificially heated but authentic mineral water or a mixture of the two treated for safety. Just to be careful here, some Japanese people make a very strong distinction between the word bath house (sento) and the onsen. Sento are traditionally places to bath as in the old days there were no bathing facilities in Japanese houses or apartments and the price to bath is usually a few hundred yen at most (a couple bucks). The onsen however is a more exotic and recreational event. Some bath houses do have spring water but its not as common. Usually its just tap water with some chlorine in it.

Disrobe and put your stuff in a basket if you have valuables and there are no lockers you may ask for the staff to hold them for you or avoid bringing them. Lockers will have wrist straps for you to carry in the onsen. Most places have soap and shampoo but some will charge if you do not bring your own.
Go to the shower area and bring your small towel not the big one for drying.

Wash your self at a stall. They are usually open areas with several faucets and a stool and they are part of or separated from the actual bathing area.

Rinse yourself and the soap from the towel and get in the tub.


If you get confused just wait and watch what the other Japanese people do it works for me.

Tattoos are usually tolerated if small but if you are covered to any degree you may want to ask first. I have one arm band and never had trouble at either a bath house or onsen. not yet!

Bathing suits are usually not allowed and of course playing splashing or idiotic behavior would horrify patrons. The Japanese onsen is almost a ritual at times so be respectful and calm. If you are nervous you will not enjoy yourself as much. Its all about relaxing. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

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    • Standard YouTube License
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    • Kitchens of Distinction
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    • Strange Free World
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    • The Orchard Music (on behalf of One Little Indian); CMRRA, ARESA, UMPG Publishing


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