Nick's Guide to Onsens in Japan
Information on Onsens in Japan
Japan is a group of volcanic islands. Volcanoes make heat, steam and hot water. All over the country are countless onsens, which are sometimes translated into English as Hot Springs.
The Japanese love to go to these hot springs and take long, soaking baths. Indeed, public bathing is so popular, there are baths which are not volcanically heated. These are called sento. Bathing in Japan, like many other cultures, is a social recreation. Also, in many cases, the waters have therapeutic effect on a wide range of disease, including:
- skin problems
So, run on down to your local onsen, and hop in!
How to 'Take a Bath' Japanese style.
The system is pretty much the same, no matter if you go to an Onsen, a Sento or someone's home. Naturally, for someone's home you can skip to the washing part.
- First, you enter, remove your shoes at the door. If there are lockers or shelves, place your shoes there.
- Next, you will most likely find a vending machine for tickets for the baths, things like soap, shampoo, etc. and possible even food, like ramen. Buy your ticket - ask for help if you can not read the buttons.
- Give your ticket (or money if there was no machine) to the person behind the counter. Note: There may only be one counter, but two doors. If you don't know which one, ask, or go to the Japanese lesson section of this homepage.
- Depending on the bath, you may find coin lockers or just baskets. In places with just baskets, they are usually safe. The coin lockers usually give you your 100 yen back when you are done.
- Remove your clothes, valuables and especially jewerly. Do NOT wear jewerly into any onsen! The water has chemicals which may cause it to tarnish badly!
- Take your towel(s) and proceed to the washing area. Note: men often wrap a towel around their waist or dangle a small towel in front of them. Women often wrap the towel around their upper and lower body.
- Then, you wash! Take a small stool and bucket. There will be individual washing locations. Most will have a faucet, many a shower handle. Soap up, and rinse well. Some places, but not all, will have a 'real shower' if you prefer that. you can wash your hair, too, if you like.
- Now you are ready to soak. I would guess over 95 percent of the baths and onsens in Japan have been segregated. My heartiest double damn to those 'supposed' Christians and Americans who corrupted the Japanese way (they blatently violated the "Prime Directive"). Anyway, most baths will have two rooms, but in a few of those you may be able to talk over the wall.
- But, there are still a small number of konyoku, mostly in out of the way, rural areas. These are completely mixed onsens. However, women keep their towel wrapped around themselves and men wrap their towel around their waist. However, amoung th younger Japanese ladies, it seems not too popular. I guess men of all ages still go, along with the obachans (= grandmothers or 'old ladies')
Oh! Yes, one last comment. Taking a bath inside is nice, but you haven't lived until you have been to a rotenburo. These are outside baths, sometimes just a walled in area next to a building, but occasionally a completely natural outdoor pool! The latter are sometimes konyoku, (mixed bathing) for those who are interested.
Here is a link on Onsens. It lists several in different parts of Japan.
An English page on Onsens in the Kaga area. Good.
Beppu Info Page (Maybe more famous than Kinugawa, if a lot farther from Tokyo.)
In French I don't parle, but seems to be a question on onsens. Might have more links.
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