What direction to go at a Japanese onsen – a guide for beginners

First thing we noticed about my college accommodation had been there had been no sleep.

Curious, we seemed in cupboards and sought out concealed panels into the wall surface in which possibly a Murphy sleep could be hiding. Nothing. Then it dawned on me personally.

My room search had revealed that another fairly crucial feature had been missing from my college accommodation: a bath or bath.

This traditional Japanese resort ended up being based in Oita Prefecture, on Kyushu Island in the united kingdom’s south-west. This area is well known because of its hot springs, called onsen, and visitors travel from around the world to bathe within the obviously heated water.

what direction to go at a Japanese onsen - a guide for newbies

In city of Beppu alone, there are over 2,000 hot springtime sources, and on a winter’s early morning the steam rising from onsen helps it be look like the city is burning.

So at Musouen resort, where I’d no bed no bath, onsen is not just motivated, it is pretty much compulsory. And what a gorgeous method to get clean! These particular onsen were open twenty four hours, to help you freshen up through the night beneath the stars, or each morning while the sun begins to strike the top of Mount Yufu.

Or, like me, you are able to simply do both!

Like so many things in Japan, the culture of onsen is steeped in tradition and ritual. It can be daunting for first-timer to navigate, specially since the instructions supplied aren’t particularly comprehensive.

What You Should Do at a Japanese onsen - a guide for beginners

Don’t allow that place you off, however. If you are visiting Oita Prefecture you absolutely cannot skip the onsen experience. That will help you navigate it, here are a few guidelines I learned from locals (and from the little learning from mistakes).

Oh, as well as in situation you’re still wondering concerning the bed, when I returned from supper the standard Japanese futon was setup on the tatami pad flooring. And I had a great night’s sleep!

Keep your swimwear at home

Once I stuffed because of this trip – understanding that onsen ended up being regarding the itinerary – my swimsuit ended up being the first thing to go in my suitcase, as well as a pair of flip flops. I laugh within my naiveté given that i understand better. In Japan, you onsen naked. No exceptions.

And if your wanting to panic, the onsen aren’t mixed. Men use one area, and females another. Historically, the onsen were provided but these times that’s excessively uncommon, assuming you’re using the public onsen at your hotel they’ll be split.

I know that for many western cultures, general public nudity can feel exceptionally uncomfortable, but in Japan it is simply the way in which things are. No body is staring no one is self-conscious. Plus, once you’re into the onsen you’re included in water and won’t be exposed.

It’s surprisingly liberating, too, so keep your togs in the home and acquire prepared to strip down.

Don’t just wing it – follow the rules

how to handle it at a Japanese onsen - helpful tips for beginners

Navigating the onsen tradition is not one thing you are able to simply get onto when you’re here (unless, needless to say, you speak Japanese and may ask somebody for guidelines).

There are particular actions to adhere to, if you break the rules you could disturb the locals whom cherish their onsen time. But don’t stress – in the event that you check this out guide and follow these steps you’ll be fine!

Relieve yourself

The onsen that I visited didn’t have restroom facilities inside. There are changing spaces and showers, nonetheless it’s best to visit the bathroom before you go.

Dress the part

Many hotels offers you some sort of robe to put on to the onsen. In one hotel I stayed in, it was something like a pyjama set, with loose trousers plus button-down top. Into the other, it was a yakuta, which is really a cotton kimono. You’ll also get socks (the type with all the big toe divided through the sleep of one’s toes) and some sandals, to help you walk outside comfortably.

how to proceed at a Japanese onsen - helpful tips for novices

What You Should Do at a Japanese onsen - helpful tips for beginners

There’s you don’t need to get completely dressed up in your regular clothes – it’s in fact much nicer to find yourself in one thing free and moving after having a relaxing onsen.

Cover your ink

Japanese history and culture means that tattoos are a complicated thing. The long additionally the in short supply of its that very few people in Japan have tattoos, and they’re mostly prohibited in onsen.

When you have substantial ink, you’ll find onsen that accept visitors with tattoos, nevertheless may need to research thoroughly first and you could possibly be limited concerning in which in Japan you’ll choose a traditional onsen.

how to proceed at a Japanese onsen - a guide for novices

When you have small tattoos, like i actually do, protect them up with plasters just before enter the onsen. I must admit, I completely forgot to work on this on one of my trips to the hot springtime (it’s not something We ever need certainly to think of) and I only realised halfway through.

I did son’t get kicked out, with no one said any such thing, but it’s far better be respectful and keep that ink concealed.

Bring just what you need

What You Should Do at a Japanese onsen - helpful information for beginners

You can’t really bring any such thing in to the onsen with you, therefore leave much of your belongings in your room if you can. There are free lockers for your valuables, but these are fairly tiny – created in order to hold your yakuta, socks and towel.

The locker key can be positioned on your wrist and taken in the water, which means you don’t must bother about losing it.

No cameras

There’s one guideline that’s clarified at every onsen: no digital cameras!

Although some of onsen are spectacularly stunning, please resist the urge to sneak a camera in and simply take photos. People are naked, as well as want to feel safe and calm within environment.

Please don’t be that westerner who provides all a poor title by thinking you’re over the rules!

(The pictures for the hot springs on this blog were given by the onsen).

The towel dilemma

What You Should Do at a Japanese onsen - a guide for beginners

This took some substantial explanations from a local before I understood.

For an onsen, you bring two towels: an everyday bath towel, plus small, slim soft towel. Here’s the offer. Leave the big towel in your locker, and bring the tiny one into the onsen with you.

In reality, this might be all you will require when you’ve left the changing space. I’ll explain everything do along with it fleetingly.

Shower first

Okay, therefore you are completely naked, you’re carrying a small towel, therefore’ve stepped outside to the onsen. You’ll see open-air showers across the hot springtime, therefore visit one of these simple and rinse your self completely, maintaining your towel dry. No importance of soap at this time.

In the uncommon event that there surely is no shower, you will have tiny buckets across the onsen. Make use of these to scoop up water through the hot spring and rinse off outside.

Immerse inside hot spring – towel on mind

how to proceed at a Japanese onsen - a guide for novices

Now you can finally get into the onsen!

Go slowly and very carefully, offering the body time for you to become accustomed to the warmth and being careful never to disturb water excessively.

In addition must make sure – which is very important – not to get the towel in the water! You can hold it or wear it your face as you move carefully around the onsen, and once you discover a spot to sit you’ll place it privately.

Take pleasure in the soothing water for 10 minutes or more, or unless you feel ready to get out.

Escape and scrub

Now’s where the towel is available in handy. It’s time for you shower once again, but this time around you’ll do more than simply rinse. Take a seat on the stool at the bath and, using the soap supplied (and shampoo if you want to clean your own hair), scrub your self together with your towel all over, including your back.

Rinse yourself very completely, when you are done, wash the towel until there’s no detergent left inside it. Squeeze the maximum amount of moisture from it as you’re able to if your wanting to return back to the onsen.

You’ll be able to use this time and energy to grab a glass or two of water if you’d like (and in case there’s a consuming water fountain available).

Onsen once more

how to proceed at a Japanese onsen - helpful tips for newbies

Back into the onsen!

When you’re completely scrubbed, head back to the hot springtime for round two of relaxation. Immerse for the next ten full minutes or so – being careful once again to keep your towel out of the water.

Get out and rinse

When you’re prepared, get free from the heated water and rinse your self within the bath one final time.

Dry your self before going straight back inside

Making use of your damp (but well wrung) towel, wipe the excess water from your own human body therefore you’re perhaps not dripping damp when you go back in the changing room.


how to handle it at a Japanese onsen - a guide for novices

Now you can gather your shower towel from your own locker and dry yourself completely. Numerous changing spaces have locks dryers, moisturisers, tissues, and cotton pads so you can do the hair on your head and makeup just before leave.

Get back in to your yakuta, socks and sandals, and leave the onsen in a blissfully relaxed state.


As soon as you’ve effectively navigated a Japanese onsen as soon as, you’ll be hooked. In Oita Prefecture there are countless locations to help you benefit from the onsen experience (take a look at region’s onsen here). it is believed to have many health advantages (they state you’ll live an additional three years for each and every onsen you are taking!).

So remain a little while, revitalize, and take in this Japanese tradition such as for instance a regional!

We experienced Japanese onsen at resort Hana Beppu & Musouen Hotel, as a result of Tokyo Metropolitan Government