Japanese Onsen – Your New Favorite Way to Relax?
Do you have your favorite way to relax? Does it include being naked with strangers?
If you answered yes to the second question, you might very well be Japanese. Relaxing in an onsen is Japan’s traditional way of relaxing and is an important part of Japanese culture.
So are you wondering what an onsen is? It’s a public Japanese bath that uses hot water from a natural hot spring. You sit in piping hot water and let it heal you physically and mentally.
Yes, Japan has lots of hot springs throughout the country because of its volcanic activity. Some onsens are plain Janes, but some are enormous posh complexes.
You might find it a little unnerving the first time you strip naked in front of a bunch of strangers and get into the water. But after a few times, you’ll wonder why you hesitated in the beginning.
Onsen etiquette is very strict, so be sure you know exactly how to proceed.
First, store your personal items in the basket or locker provided, and take your shoes/sandals off. Take a small modesty cloth to cover yourself as you walk around. Put it on your head when you’re in the water.
Before getting into the bathwater, take a bath. Yes, take a bath before the bath. You’ll see a row of small stools next to a shower head and a bar of soap. Use lots of soap and get yourself really clean, but make sure that you rinse well so that you don’t get the bathwater soapy.
Now it’s time to get into the bath. Don’t worry. Genders are separated these days. Some of the other bathers might try to communicate with you, but if your Japanese leaves much to be desired, just use gestures.
You’ll know exactly when to get out. You just won’t be able to tolerate the heat any longer. As you get out, politely nod to the other bathers and head back to the changing room.
By the way, some onsens don’t allow people with tattoos to enter because tattoos traditionally signified gangs or organized crime.
You might find that all shyness drops away when you’re naked in the onsen. In fact, it might be easier to share intimacies with people in an onsen than when chatting in your favorite coffee shop.