The Do’s & Don’ts Of Japanese Onsen!
Soaking in a Japanese onsen (hot spring) is an experience not to be missed while visiting Japan. As well as leaving you feeling refreshed, relaxed and clean, onsen waters also have healing qualities due to the minerals in the water.
Here are some key tips to make your onsen visit enjoyable and ensure you are following the rules of onsen protocol:
- Shower before you bathe. Most, if not all onsen will have a shower area either in or just outside the bathing area where you will be required to wash your body before entering in order to keep the water as clean as possible. Entering an onsen with sweat, soap or dirt on your body is simply not accepted.
- Undress before you enter. In Japan any clothing or towels that can be worn are considered dirty and should never be taken into an onsen. This may sound daunting, but you’ll soon realize that the Japanese won’t even bat an eye.
- Modesty. Although nudity is required, modesty is also expected too. This can be done by using you small towel to hide your nether regions when moving between changing room, shower and onsen. You’ll notice that most of the locals will do the same.
- Towels. At the onsen you may be provided with a towel or you can take your own. The towel should never touch the onsen water. To avoid this most people will wear the small cloth on their head to avoid losing the towel and dirtying the water while bathing.
- Don’t go under the water. Refrain from putting your head under the water, this is pretty much forbidden in most onsen and is considered to allow more germs into the water. Your hair should also never touch the water, so if you have long hair it is best to tie it up even if you’ve just washed your hair under the shower.
- Tattoos. Tattoos are still considered taboo in Japan due to their association with the Yakuza (Japanese Mafia). If you have small tattoos it is advised that you cover these with a waterproof bandage. But if you have tattoos that are unable to be hidden or covered your best bet is to book a private onsen through a Ryokan. Some onsen are more targeted towards foreigners and are therefore more lenient but these may be few and far between.
- Noise. Onsen are considered social places and a lot of users like to socialise and have a chat while they soak. But they are considered places of relaxation so too much noise is considered rude.