The general rules to know before visiting an Onsen

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  • Public bathing is normal in Japan and there are many Onsens for having a dip.The Japanese are very proud of their bathing tradition, but there are some instances where foreigners might experience difficulties in enjoying the Onsens. Some Onsens strictly prohibit the entry of foreigners while others welcome them as long as one would stick to the rules mentioned below.

    1. Generally, no tattoos

    Though there are many reasons circulating, the valid reason is as follows. Normally in Japan, tattoos are worn by gang members or Yakuza and that is why many Onsens prohibit people with visible tattoos from entering the Onsens. Recently the popular onsens are talking about changing this rule, and instead provide beige stickers to cover a tattoo.

    2. Do not enter an Onsen with any clothes on

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    One has to be completely nude when entering an Onsen. You have to leave everything in the changing room’s locker and you can carry a small piece of towel just to put it on your head. In some places, they only people wearing Yukata, the traditional Japanese wear, into the dressing rooms. Swimsuits, mostly for women, are allowed in some places. Also, be careful when going into changing rooms, especially if you cannot read Kanji as you may get confused and enter a changing room of another gender. Usually, men and women bathing areas are strictly separated, but in some places the changing rooms are pretty close.

    3. Do not enter without taking a shower first

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    This is a must do when entering an Onsen. There are shower outlets available in front of Onsen area where one can clean oneself. Soap, gel and everything you may need is present there. People normally also take a shower after their bathing route is over, there are hair driers and lotions available for your after-bath routine.

    4. Do not disrespect privacy

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    One has to leave all their belongings in the dressing room lockers and cannot carry cameras into an Onsen. One should keep quiet and avoid talking loudly even when accompanied by their best buddies. Also, do not stare at others even though it might be your first time as it will make people uncomfortable. It is highly recommended to maintain a proper etiquette in an Onsen. Do not blow your nose or spit in the water or anything like that. Generally, some people unknowingly do some things which might offend others. It is better to take care of such small things to have the most pleasant bathing experience.

    5. Do not enter without following general health tips

    It is advised to stay hydrated before going into an Onsen as the hot water can cause dehydration in just a few minutes. Also, it is advised to take care of your skin beforehand if its sensitive to hot water or if you have any allergies.

    6. Do not swim

    Many people think they can swim in an Onsens just like in a pools. Swimming is prohibited in most of the Onsens and some may accidentally bump into others while doing it.