Japanese Onsen: 7 Tips For First Timers

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Onsen

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Even though Japanese people are known as shy most won’t hesitate to get naked in public… When going to a Japanese Onsen. Then they are happy to take off their clothes for a nice, relaxing bath.

Why do Japanese people love the Onsen so much?

Japan has 127 million people, but 140 million people go to the Onsen every year. This means that many people visit more than once per year.

Over 1300 years ago, high-class people purified themselves with water before important ceremonies. This tradition soon spread the rest of the country and the water changed as the tradition grew. Rather than using any type of water, people started purifying themselves with water from hot springs.

This was the start of Onsen culture. But today, it is popular for totally different reasons.

Why the Onsen is so popular today

The first reason is the most obvious: because it feels so good. Just like sitting in a hot tub, the onsen will warm you up, soothe your muscles, and relax you.

But the Onsen is completely different from taking a bath in your bathtub or even sitting in a hot tub because the natural hot springs contain a lot of minerals. They make your skin very smooth and are also absorbed into your body. This balances your sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves, improves blood pressure, stabilizes your blood glucose level, and changes your heart rate.

Soak in the Onsen regularly and you will relax your body and stabilize yourself.

Second, it’s good for your body.

In Japan, there is a body treatment called Yuji, which has been used since the 1600s. People who have physical problems spend a week in an Onsen hotel getting treatments. However, these are not medical treatments. It is just soaking in the Onsen water many times.

Soaking in the Onsen can also prevent body oxidation.When your body oxidizes, it ages and develops diseases as severe as cancer.

There are several types of Onsens, each with their own unique benefits, based on the minerals in the specific hot spring. For example, some are good for skin problems, while others are good for rheumatism, neuralgia, hypertension, and even gastroenteritis or respiratory diseases.

Third, it’s good for your mind.

Recently many people have started to visit the Onsen to relax and heal their stressed out minds, rather than treat a physical disorder. This is something you can’t understand unless you experience it for yourself, but it is effective—especially at an outdoor Onsen, called a Rotenburo, where you can take a bath while immersed in nature. Both mind and body are healed if you soak in Onsen enjoying autumn trees on the mountain,  fresh green in spring or many stars… This is why many Onsen lovers insist on the Rotenburo. It’s incredibly relaxing.

Know before you go

A trip to the Onsen has some rules you must follow and it might be confusing if you don’t have someone teach you. Some of these may sound obvious, but this is all based on common things that happen.

So here are some tips:

1. The Onsen is a shared space so it’s important to respect other people.
This is not your personal shower so being considerate of others is very important. Don’t bother others and be tidy so that everyone can enjoy themselves.

2. Wash your body before entering the Onsen.
When you take off your clothes you might want to jump right into the hot spring, but please DO NOT. Washing before entering is the most important thing to know. Would you like to soak for 20 minutes in dirty Onsen water? No, it’s disgusting, isn’t it? This is why it’s important that everyone washes their hair and body first. 

3. Do not soak the towel in the Onsen water
You might hesitate to get naked in front of other people. In that case, you can cover your body with your towel, but never put the towel in the Onsen water. After you’ve washed your body, put your towel into the corner of the washing space (do not forget to pick it up before you leave the hot spring) or bring it to the tub and put it outside. If you can’t find a good place just put it on your head.

4. Do not soak hair in the Onsen water
Same as the towel, do not put your hair in Onsen water. If you have long hair you should tie it up. This might seem unnecessary since you just washed it, but it’s considered rude.

5. Do not scrub your body when in the Onsen water
When you’re in the hot water, your skin becomes softer and it can loosen dead skin, but please do not scrub your body while in the water. You should scrub yourself before you go in. 

6. If you went to the sauna, rinse your sweat before you enter the Onsen water
It’s common to have a sauna available in the same place as the Onsen, but no one wants your sweat in the tub.

7. Before you leave the bath area, wipe your body quickly with your towel, then go back to changing space
If you don’t dry your body before you go to your locker, the changing space will be flooded with water.

Those are the most important Onsen tips.

Unfortunately, some tourists talk loudly with friends or family and messing around in the common spaces which is distracting to others. Many people come to the Onsen to relax, reset their body and mind, or enjoy time in quiet nature. So again, please respect others and enjoy your time in the Onsen! 🙂

That may seem like a lot of rules, but it keeps everything clean and ensures that everyone can enjoy themselves. After going a few times it will be like second nature to you and chances are, you’ll love the Onsen just as much as we do.