An onsen is a term for hot springs in the Japanese language though the term is often used to describe the bathing facilities and inns around the hot springs. A volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsen scattered along its length and breadth and has some of the best in the world. From ancient times, onsen have been used for relaxation and medical care, there is so much more to enjoy than just soaking your body!
For a foreign visitor, this is perhaps one of the most memorable cultural experiences to be had in Japan, and one that will most certainly spoil you. There is no going back to a shower after experiencing the heat and healing of an onsen. In addition to the obvious relaxation and cleanliness reasons forgoing to an onsen, the Japanese also go to heal. Of course, relaxation is essential for health and healing, as most western countries are now becoming aware.
However, most onsen also claim to treat and relieve a multitude of specific ailments; everything from arthritis to diabetes. You name it, and there is probably a hot spring in Japan to treat it. These various healing properties are commonly attributed to the minerals dissolved in the water. Most onsen list these treated ailments in their brochures. Lastly, if you come to Japan, and if and when you choose to bathe at an onsen, you must do it right. The bathing culture is different at hot springs in Japan than at many other springs around the world. The spring may look much like a small pool or Jacuzzi back home, but the customs for entering it are very different, as most discover this the hard way.
1. Clothes are not worn. At public onsen men and women often have separate baths. after removing your clothes and placing them in the locker or basket provided, one normally enters the onsen with a small white towel. This is used for washing as well as for covering oneself when walking from pool to pool, but you are expected to remove the towel before entering the water.
2. Wash yourself throughly before entering the Onsen, washing stations where you sit and wash are located next to the onsen. Do not enter an onsen after drinking alcohol.
3. Japanese onsen are notoriously hot! Most first-timers may have a difficult time even getting into the seemingly scalding water. That first dip into a hot pool is always the hardest. It is in these “scalding” pools that you might wonder when the relaxation part of the onsen experience begins. to accustom your body to the hot water you simply use one of the buckets provided to scoop out water from the pool and rinse yourself thoroughly before stepping in.
4. Relax in the the pools, there are hot and cold pools, saunas, in and outdoor pools and sometimes pools that make electric current to stimulate blood flow and metabolism. people normally set their towels off to the side of the water when enjoying the baths. However, some people place their folded towels on top of their heads
5. After your first soak, a cycle of getting out and scrubbing down in the wash area once more, is usually repeated several times.
6. After your last dip in the Onsen, DO NOT rinse again. Just, dry yourself off before returning to the changing room. This is to keep the onsen mineral attributes, smell and healing properties with you longer.
If you want to discover "the real Japan" there is no better place than an Onsen. Although there are tens of thousands of Onsen, many tourists never get a chance to partake in this wonderful chance to experience traditional Japan. Visiting an onsen is probably the quitessential Japanese experience. When visiting Japan it is highly recommend to wash away, any stress or fatigue at least once with this unique bathing experience.
For more information on Onsens or Onsen tours please contact us