Onsen is the Japanese term for hot spring, naturally heated water that has a high concentration of minerals. Japan is known as the no 1. natural hot spring country of the world, with over 2700 hot spring locations all over Japan.
There are many kinds of onsen, indoor baths or outdoor baths. If you are looking for an onsen in Japan, you can recognize it by the ♨ symbol or the Kanji character 湯 and hiragana character ゆ, which means yu (hot water).
Onsen are a part of Japanese culture that goes way back. They were used as a way to heal diseases. As there are many kinds of onsen, each onsen has different effects. It all depends on the water source that the onsen is attached to. Also, some of the onsen in Japan are gender segregated but you still can find mixed onsen, along with a women-only bath. In some mixed onsen, women are provided with a towel like a dress.
There are private onsen places, one where you have to book a time slot. And there are some luxury hotels and ryokan (Japanese family hotel/pension) that come with a private onsen.
Japanese onsen etiquette / bathing rules.
Like sake drinking etiquette, there are onsen etiquette/bathing rules too. So, before you go to Japan and want to have selfcare time, be aware of the following rules.No tattoos
Tattoos in Japan are often related to Yakuza/gang members. When you want to go to a public place like the spa/onsen, please inform the staff before hand. Meaning most onsen don’t allow tattoos. This applies to public places like the gym, swimming pools and saunas too btw.No alcohol.
Due to health risks, drinking alcohol in the bath area is not allowed. You can however drink in the lobby or assigned places. Though, please hydrate yourself after you’re done. Drink enough water or juice after a hot bath.Prepare to get naked.
Clothes, swimming suits or large towels are not allowed in the bath area. However, like I mentioned before, in some mixed hot springs, women do get a long towel to cover themselves.
There is a small towel that you can take with you to the bath area, but don’t enter the water with it. You can use the small cold towel on your head to avoid dizziness.
Before entering the onsen bath, please rinse yourself. It’s a sign of respect and politeness to thoroughly wash your body before entering the bath.
Don’t jump or splash.
Please don’t jump, dive or splash when you enter the bath. Just sit back and relax.
Tie your hair.
Either if you are a woman or man, if you have long hair, tie your hair neatly in a knot. Also, after showering, please tie your hair.
It’s customary to avoid any kind of grooming in the bath area and while showering.
Turn down the volume.
Onsen is a place where people come to relax and soothe themselves. While it’s okay to chat with your friends and family, but make sure to do so at a low volume.
When you’re done and you want to go to the changing area, don’t enter the changing room dripping wet but dry yourself as much as you can. I know it can be a bit difficult since the only towel you have is a small one.
Clean after use.
If you used a bucket or a stool to wash yourself, please wash those too before leaving. It would be kind for the person after you.
Is this seat taken?
If there are chairs or benches in the changing are, please only use them after you’ve put some clothes on.
Would you like to visit a hot spring when you go to Japan? Also, what’s your favorite selfcare moment? Tell us all about it in the comments.