An onsen bath is Japan’s own version of a hot spring. They’re traditionally used as public bathing places.The experience is very refreshing (and interesting, to be honest) so a lot of tourists include this in their bucket list.
While it’s usually outdoors, there are a number of establishments with indoor bathing facilities. They only use heated tap water though, so you won’t get the same therapeutic and healing powers that you can find in natural, meaning geothermally heated, onsen bath. Ready to dive right in? Before you do, take a look at this guide.
8. Wear a Yukata (provided in most onsen baths)
Public baths have lockers where you can store away your clothing. Most onsens will provide you with a yukata (a cotton kimono), a belt, and a towel. It’s common practice to wear the kimono going to the bath area and then proceed to undress, and leave the kimono and belt in the basket that will be provided to you.
7. Put a small towel on your head or a shower cap if you must
Almost all onsen baths require you to be completely naked except for a towelette on your head. No slippers are also allowed inside the bath. If you have a shower cap, then it’s okay to use it instead of the towellete, although you’ll probably stick out like a thorn.
6. Absolutely no staring
Yes, most baths are unisex and as amusing at it is, being polite and respectful is a policy. If the baths are full, do not stand and stare. Wait in the ante chamber and check again in a few minutes if there is an available spot for you.
5. Onsen baths are not swimming pools
Do not jump in and cause splashes in an onsen bath. Also, raising your voice and playing with the water will not be tolerated by the locals. Have a good demeanor and relax like everybody else.
4. Say ACHII
If you are enjoying the hot bath, in an enthusiastic manner, say “achii.” It’s the Japanese translation of “hot” and saying it is a gesture of good will and will let your peers know that you are grateful of the experience.
3. Rinse yourself before the bath, dry yourself before changing
It is a rule and basic etiquette in all onsen baths to rinse yourself properly in the shower before entering the hot bath. After exiting the hot bath, be sure to dry yourself completely so you won’t have water dripping down in the changing room. Water on the floor can cause accidents and it’s common courtesy to be completely dry before changing back into your yukata.
2. Be open to mingling
Locals love to mingle in the onsen bath so if people try to talk to you, mind them politely and join in the conversation if you can. It’s good to be in high spirits with your fellow onsen-goers while going through the experience.
Lastly, take the experience in and enjoy the hot baths of Japan. It’s going to be memorable!
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