Onsens are hot springs in Japan. They are very popular and can be found in many places around Japan. Here, I’ll write about the basic manners, rules, and things to bring when going to an onsen
1.Take off your shoes and place into the lockers
This is a general rule in Japan. It’s kind of easy to tell if a certain place requires you to take off your shoes. Usually it’s indicated by showing shoes outsides, slippers close by the entrance, or a raised area when you walk in.
2. Bring at least 2 towels and clean clothes
They have vending machines that will sell you shampoo, long or short towels, robes, etc. It will print out a ticket and they will hand your desired items to you. It’s okay if you can’t read it, somebody will be happy to help you!
The reason I said at least two towels is because one is used in the onsen for your face to open up your pores, then a towel to dry off afterwards. They have a shower area in the onsen that has shampoo, conditioner, and soap as well.
3. Swimsuit? No swimsuit?
From what I experienced, there’s a no swimsuit/clothes policy. I think it has to do with bringing in dirt and impurities into a community area. Many are generally separate genders, but there are some that are also co-ed. The onsen that I linked at the bottom is separate.
Before entering the bath, make sure to rinse off. There’s usually an area with cold water that has a big ladel that is meant to rinse off all the dirt and impurities before entering the bath. However, I think it’s better to take a shower FIRST since it will ensure you are TRULY clean before entering the baths. The onsens will have a stool for you to sit while you wash yourself with provided shampoo, conditioner, and soap.
This one is a bit of a subjective area to talk about. In Japan, tattoos usually symbolize the Yakuza, Japanese gangsters. Generally in Japan, it’s considered a taboo to have tattoos, but the younger generations are more open about tattoos compared to the older generations. So it’s very subjective and will depend on the place.
6. How long should I stay?
Naive me thought of staying for at least one or two hours. I believe that I only stayed for about 30-45 minutes. The onsen is at such a high temperature that sometimes it can make you feel like you’re about to pass out. So it’s best to not stay in for too long.
7. Drink lots of water
In general, it’s good to be hydrated, but be extra hydrated before entering an onsen. The onsens operate at such high temperatures, it is easy to feel light headed.
This sounds obvious, but don’t bring your phone into the onsen or take pictures/play on your phone in the locker area. The locker area is where people undress and are basically walking around naked. Be respectful.