If you have had the opportunity to visit Japan, you may have heard of the famous “onsen”, also known as Japanese hot springs. Onsens (温泉) are widely spread out throughout Japan due to the volcanic nature of this amazing country, and therefore, the onsen is an important element to Japanese culture.
However, before jumping right in, so to speak, it is essential to learn how to use an onsen properly. Different onsens may have different rules but these are 5 big no-nos that all visitors must remember before visiting any onsen in Japan.
As you may already be aware, in most places outdoor shoes cannot be used indoors, especially at home and in a gymnasium. However, when visiting an onsen, indoor shoes are not even allowed. There will always be a small step to indicate that you should be barefooted from that point onwards.
You should remove all clothing – that is, get naked – before entering the public bath area. For some of you, this may be very embarrassing at first but do not wear a swimming suit or towel in the onsen.
However, some onsens have made a few exceptions to appeal more to tourists.
As mentioned previously, towels must not be worn inside the onsen area and most definitely, not be used or brought into the baths. However, towels can be kept on the sides of the baths or on top of your head (if you’re confident with your balancing skills) where they will not make contact with the water at any point to avoid any hygiene issues.
All onsens will have a separate space for showering, which is usually near the public baths. Therefore, before hopping into the public bath, everyone must wash thoroughly beforehand to maintain good hygiene standards. Onsens are public hot spring baths so this step is a must for everyone!
Firstly, your hair should not go into the water upon entering the baths, and you most definitely should not use the water to wash your hair. It is not allowed and considered very rude, and is again, put in place to maintain good hygiene standards.
Onsens are where Japanese people often go to, to relax because the hot spring is believed to have healing properties for both the mind and body – especially any aches and pains. So please take note of all of the 5 points above to avoid creating any conflict during your onsen experience. Last but not least, remember to relax and enjoy the amazing experience that the onsen provides and let it soothe you.