Onsen (hot springs) are one of the "must" experiences in a trip to Japan. Onsen are the most popular way for Japanese people to relax! Onsen are almost everywhere in Japan, so even if you're only going to Tokyo you can easily make a day trip to an onsen. Nowhere is a better place than an onsen to forget your hectic daily life, relax, and soothe and rejuvenate your body and mind.Here are some rules, manners and advice on how to enjoy onsen. Simply put, 1) Get naked, 2) Rinse off, and 3) Soak and relax. Here it is in more detail:
1. First of all, you will completely undress in the dressing room. And you won't wear a bathing suit. You must be naked when you enter an onsen. You can bring a small towel with you into the bathing area which can be used to wash your body and to hide your private parts (if you want) outside the water. You don't necessarily have to cover your parts, but it's a good idea to not show them off or draw attention to them anyway. It is recommended to take off your accessories and watches. Also, almost all onsen have separate bathing areas for men and women.
2. Once in the bathing area, you will rinse off and wash before getting into the tub. This is important as it allows you to get used to the hot temperature and also keeps the bath water clean for other bathers. The water may feel a little too hot for those not used to it, as it's around 40°C. Also, don't dive or jump into the tub.
3. Feel free to say hello to other bathers. Japanese people may be shy and not good at English, but your greeting will break the ice and start some small talk in a friendly atmosphere.
4. In the bath, it is recommended to soak up to your knee first, then waist, then chest, and finally neck. This helps you gradually get used to the temperature and water pressure.
5. Don't put your towel into the water. Put it on your head, the edge of the tub or a rock near you. As mentioned before, you do not need to hide your parts, but if you want to, you need to do it with your hands or by crossing your legs. In some onsen, you need not bother as the water is milky white and nobody can see your body in the water.
6. Don't put soap in the water. Also, don’t swim – the baths are for relaxing.
7. You may be able to drink some beer or sake while soaking, but take good care not to drink too much.
8. Don't soak for too long. If you begin sweating, you may want to get out of the water for a bit and then soak again. An onsen is not a place to compete in endurance.
9. Do not shower after you soak. Most onsen have mineral elements and a shower is likely to weaken those minerals' healing effects.
10. Wipe your body with your towel before returning the dressing room.
11. After getting out of the onsen, drink water or a sports drink to hydrate yourself.
Too many rules and manners?
Don't worry. Remember the basics: 1) Get naked, 2) Rinse off, and 3) Soak and relax.
And be a nice person. Voila! You are a great onsen bather!
Click here for a picture guide to using onsen baths