A Japanese Take on Wellness: Visiting an Onsen

Japanese hot springs, called onsen, are a natural miracle that will relax your body and soul.

The benefits to Japan’s seismically active region are no shortage of thermal water, and thus thousands of onsen, the Japanese version of hot springs. Onsen have been embedded in Japanese culture for thousands of years and Japanese people, as it were, religiously go there to relax and enjoy some family time.

Onsen come in many shapes but they often cherish the traditional Japanese aesthetics, and have an outside bath surrounded by a Japanese garden, or beautiful natural scenery. There are most of the time separate areas for men and women, but a private bath can oftentimes be booked for a more exclusive experience.

Thermal water is a rich resource in Japan and its chemical and mineral composition is proven to have positive effects on your skin and health overall. There are many different types of thermal water, each having a unique profile and benefits; the water itself ranges in color from crystal clear to milky to red.

Onsen Etiquette

Before you dip yourself into their soothing hot waters, there are a few steps to be aware of:

1. Sorry, no clothes allowed!

First of all, it is mandatory to bath naked: no clothes or swimwear are allowed. You might get cold feet at first, but it is actually surprisingly easy to overcome any anxiety in the comfort of the thermal water.

2. Take a shower before you bath

Before you enter the water thoroughly clean your body under the shower. Since multiple people enter the same water it is unconsidered unhygienic to enter the common bath without a proper wash. The same actually goes for some Japanese homes where families still use the same bathwater. This way you can enjoy the waters’ natural benefits without the excess use of chlorine or other disinfectants.

3. Feel free to use a "modesty towel"

People are not prone to stare or judge inside an onsen, but feel free to use a small “modesty towel” to cover up and feel more comfortable out of the water. You’ll see many Japanese people wrapping it around or placing it on top of their heads as towels or hair should not touch the water.

4. Enjoy the hot water

Japanese Onsen water can be hot, very hot. Often between 40 and 44 degrees, you’ll no doubt warm up quickly. If you are new to onsen, please let your body gently get used to the high temperature starting with a few minutes only inside the water.

If you start to feel lightheaded, take a rest, have some water or milk, and take another dip when you feel ready.


If Onsen just isn't for you

International tourists might feel uncomfortable bathing with strangers, but you don’t have to completely miss out on this experience. Many Japanese inns called ryokan or luxurious resorts offer access to private baths where you can enjoy the soothing water on your own, with your partner or family. The added privacy certainly helps to feel more comfortable and appreciate the natural wonders of Japan.

If you prefer to stay out of the water at all, why not let GOYOH arrange a visit to the famous snow monkeys of Northern Japan, who have gotten used to the daily comfort of hot springs, and enjoy their bath time to the fullest.

It is marvelous to observe these wild creatures relax and socialize with each other in the warmth of their own onsen.

Feel free to ask GOYOH about onsen recommendations.

We can arrange a day trip or overnight stay during your stay in Japan.

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