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->Hot Spring Ryokans
-> The Joys of Hot Springs
by David Paget

->A Hot Spring Experience
by Andrew Daniel

Make a Reservation at a Ryokan (Traditional Japanese Inn) Anywhere in Japan
 Home > Introduction to Japanese Hot Springs

Oedo Onsen, Odaiba, TokyoCopyright D Paget, All Rights Reserved, 2003

Introduction to Japanese Hot Springs
Hot springs have a very long history in Japan, and they are an intimate part of Japanese culture. There are over 3,000 "onsen" - or hot springs - in Japan, many which can be found at the ryokans listed at Japanese Guest Houses. Onsen are created from water heated naturally underground, and the water varies both in degrees and in mineral composition. The water is piped into the ryokans or other establishments, and then regulated at various temperatures. At many ryokans, there will be large indoor onsen for both men and women. They may often have several pools with wall-length windows where you can look out over a garden, river, or another natural setting. The interior may be lined with natural rocks and decorated with various kinds of tropical plants. There are also outdoor onsen called "rotenburo." At some ryokans they can be found nearby, and they are often open all night. The outdoor onsen can be more rustic than the indoor onsen, and often they do not have any changing rooms.

Using an Onsen

  • enter the changing room (one for women and one for men)
  • remove your clothes and put them in the basket or locker provided
  • take the wash towel with you (one will be provided for you)
  • cover your private parts and enter the bathing area closing any door behind you
  • wash your body using the showers or taps before entering the hot spring bath
  • relax in the bath for a short while and be careful not to get too hot
  • if there is both an indoor and an outdoor bath, you can enjoy both baths
  • after your last soak in the bath, you do not need to rinse your body

Onsen Etiquette

  • Onsen are for soaking your body, not washing your body. Before you enter the water, it is important to wash your body and rinse all the soap from your body. There will be a shower and/or tap in the onsen where you can wash yourself before entering the water.
  • Unlike hot springs in some countries, bathers do not wear any clothes in a Japanese onsen. Most onsen have both male and female baths, together with separate changing rooms. The only things you should bring with you to the onsen are soap, shampoo, and a small towel.
  • An onsen is for relaxing, not swimming. Just sit back and let the mineral water soak into the pores of your skin. It is a wonderful way to relax and unwind, and you will feel squeaky clean and very refreshed at the end of your bath. Avoid rough horseplay and making loud noises as the atmosphere at an onsen is suppose to be for relaxation and quiet conversation.
  • Before stepping into the water, it is a good idea to test the temperature with your foot so you have some idea of the water temperature. Some onsen can be very hot! If you have heart trouble or high blood pressure, do not stay in the water for more than a few minutes. 
  • If you wear glasses, do not take them with you to an outdoor hot spring. The difference in air temperature between sitting in the hot spring and the outside air may cause your glasses to crack once you leave the hot spring.



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