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Taking a Japanese Onsen –

Japanese Onsen’s or Hot Spring Baths are a fantastic way to relax after a day sight seeing, skiing or boarding. They are highly recommend to try as Hokkaido offers some of the best Onsen’s in Japan.

Onsen’s will vary in size, style, price and type of water. There is usually a sign somewhere on the inside which tells you about the mineral content of the water. (These signs are usually in Japanese however.)

Unlike most western countries onsen’s in Japan are always taken with no clothing. Men and women bathe in separate areas, however if you are uncomfortable with being naked in front of others you may wish to try a different activity.

When taking an Onsen however there are a few things you should be aware of before going.

What you will need to take –

  1. A large towel for drying yourself at the end of the onsen.
  2. A small towel for use when showering before entering the onsen. (If you forget your small towel you can often buy them from the front desk for a few hundred yen or less)
  3. While almost all onsen’s supply soap, shampoo and conditioner (even razors and combs in more expensive places) we suggest you pack a bar of soap to take with you as some smaller / cheaper onsen’s may not supply toiletries. You may also wish to take any other toiletry products you require. It is quite common for men to shave while taking a shower before the onsen.

When you get to the onsen –

  • After entering the front door be sure to take off your shoes and place them in the holding area located at the sides of the entrance.
  • Slippers are provided for you to wear while you are in the onsen. Please take to pair and proceed to the front desk
  • At the front desk there will either be a machine from which you should buy a ticket or you will talk to the front desk clerk. Please note that most onsen’s offer many different kinds of deals ranging from just an onsen to onsen’s including dinner or lunch. There may also be different prices depending on time and length of stay in the onsen.

After entering the onsen area –

  • After entering the onsen, proceed to the actual bath area. There will almost always be two different entrances. One will be for women, usually covered with a pink / red curtain and a symbol like this
    Female Onsen Kanji

    Female Onsen Kanji

    and one for men, usually covered with a blue / dark curtain and a symbol like this
    Male Onsen Kanji

    Male Onsen Kanji

  • Enter the dressing room area and be sure to take off your slippers at the front door.
  • Inside you will find an area containing some small lockers, some baskets and some bathroom sinks. The baskets are for your clothes when you undress, the lockers are for your small valuable items and the sinks are for you to wash your hands or brush your teeth if you wish.
  • After fully undressing place your clothes in the baskets and take only your small towel with you to the bath area.

After entering the bath area –

  • When you enter the bath area you will see some seated shower stalls, a large pool of hot water (the actual onsen) and perhaps a smaller pool of cool or cold water (for rinsing if you get too hot. Many of the more expensive onsen’s will also provide a sauna. )
  • Proceed to the shower stalls, be seated and take a shower whilst seated (Do Not Shower Standing Up). The shower will generally be operated by push button. The water will flow for a few seconds at a time. Be sure to cleanse all of your body very thoroughly (above and below the waist). Use your small towel as a washer and be sure to scrub well between your toes, under arms etc. If you wish to shave at this time please feel free.
  • After you have showered rinse your towel and the shower stall area.
  • Proceed to the actual onsen bath and get in. Be careful to enter slowly so as not to disturb other bathers. Also depending on the onsen the water temperature may change between different areas of the bath or different baths. Do Not Place Your Small Towel In The Water. Most people will either wear it on their heads or place it on the outside of the bath area.

Be careful not to overheat yourself in the onsen or fall asleep!

After you are relaxed and satisfied, you may wish to take another short shower before you leave as onsens have varying water types. The most natural will pump water straight from the ground and as such the water may be a brownish color. This is not bad it is simply the color of the minerals in the water.

Enjoy Yourself, Respect Others, Bathe Before Entering the Onsen Pool, Relax. Its Great, Have a Go Today!