Basic Guide to Hot Spring “Onsen” in Japan

Japan has thousands of natural hot springs and resort towns that surround them. Going to an “onsen,” hot springs in Japanese, is part of Japanese culture; staying at an osen lodge with families and friends to relax is one of the most popular ways of spending a holiday among Japanese people.

We would love foreign tourists to experience Japanese onsen! It is very relaxing and is a great way to heal your body tired from travel.


Onsen Rules

Bath house in Dogo Onsen town in Ehime Prefecture

As Japanese onsen requires everyone to be naked, it might be a little intimidating for foreign visitors to try at first.

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However, know the basic customs and you will understand that people follow certain rules so that everyone can enjoy an onsen together.

They are all about keeping the communal space clean and showing respect to others. So what are the onsen rules?


1. No clothes on

You have to be naked in osen. No swimsuit or underwear.

Normally, you are given a small towel you can use to wash your body. You can use that to cover your body.


2. Wash your body in the washing area before you bathe

Before getting in an onsen, lightly wash yourself. This is to keep the water clean.

Also, be careful not to disturb other people when using the shower. Use the small stool that are usually provided in the washing area and make sure you don’t splash water on others around you.

After using a stool and a basin, rinse them with water and place them back neatly.


3. Nothing but your body in an onsen; no towel, no hair

This is also to keep the water clean. If you have long hair, tie it up.

Don’t dip your towel in the water. Put it aside or on your head.


4. Relax in an onsen; don’t talk loud, swim, drink, or wash your body/clothes in the water

Onsen is a place to relax. Be considerate for others.


5. Wipe your body lightly before going back to the locker room

This is to keep the locker room clean and dry. You can use the small towel you brought in to the bath room to wipe your body.


6. Don’t stare at other people’s bodies

You don’t want strangers to stare at your body…


If you are going to try onsen in Japan, please respect those rules and enjoy onsen comfortably!



Which do you prefer? Indoor or Outdoor Onsen?

There are indoor and outdoor (roten) onsen. Most hotels and ryokans in hot spring villages have an indoor onsen, which is a communal bath for the guests. If you are shy to use a communal bath, some hotels and ryokans have small private bath where guests can book and use. There are luxurious rooms that come with private outdoor bath as well.

Outdoor onsen called “roten buro” has a great variety. Typical outdoor onsen at hotels and ryokans are simply a bath on the rooftop or balcony while some are located in the woods, on top of the mountain, sea side and etc. There are many outdoor onsen with amazing views in Japan!


Gender-separated Onsen

Usually, onsen are separated by gender. Although not many nowadays, there still exist mixed onsen called “konyoku” where both women and men can bath together.

You can be naked in the mixed onsen but it is safe to cover your body. Most of mix bath do not require you to be naked and allow you to bring in a large towel to cover your body even in the water.



So, are you now interested in experiencing Japanese onsen?! We hope so!


All images: photoAC 

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