Kent Kobayashi

Travelled to 11 countries / regions

Written 18 briefs
I am Japanese local



Asia > Japan > Useful Info
Submitted on May 05, 2019 Useful Info

How to experience Japanese hot springs (Onsen) like a local

  • Onsens are Japanese-style hot springs that are all over the country. The word Onsen literally means hot spring in Japanese
  • Most Onsens are public, where you share the hot spring with other people
  • Private Onsens also exist, and many hotels and ryokans also provide private Onsens in their rooms. However, the private ones at hotels/ryokans are usually indoors; outdoor ones are expensive
  • You can enjoy your private Onsens however you want to. For public Onsens, here's the general procedure:
  1. Onsens are segregated into men and women areas. At no point in the entire process will there be comingling of the sexes. So make sure you head to the correct locker room
  2. Put your stuff away in the locker room. Leave the large towel provided to you here to dry yourself later. Bring the small towel provided with you to wash yourself with
  3. Go to the washing area to clean yourself (naked; don't wear swim suit). This is a room that has stools for you to sit on and a shower head for you to use to thoroughly clean yourself before going into the Onsen. Check with your Onsen beforehand if they provide shampoo and soap. Locals usually bring our own
  4. Make your way to the Onsen itself. Again, you must go into the Onsen completely naked. No articles of clothing is to go into the water with you as they're considered unclean
  5. Ease yourself into the Onsen. The water will be hotter than you imagine. Make sure your towel doesn't go into the water with you; you can put it either on your head or on the ledge
  6. Take frequent breaks from the Onsen to cool yourself down, and drink lots of water
  7. Most people stay in Onsens for 20-60 minutes. There's usually no hard limit on how long you can stay, but it gets unbearably hot for most people after this time. When you're ready to leave, dry yourself first before heading back to the locker room
  • Some public Onsen etiquette and good to know information:
  • Check ahead of time to see if the Onsen you're going to will provide shampoo, soap and towel. Most do but some do not
  • If you have tattoos, also check with them what their policy regarding tattoos is. Most Onsens will turn you away if you have tattoos, but some will provide bandages for you to cover small ones up with
  • Make sure to clean yourself before going into the Onsen from head to toe. Ladies you will need to wash your hair too
  • You must be naked the entire time. All your clothes must stay in the locker room
  • Use the small towel provided to cover your private parts for modesty reasons when you're walking around
  • Don't submerge your head in Onsen, and don't let your hair touch the water. Ladies, please tie your hair up so they don't accidentally touch the water
  • Don't let your towel touch the Onsen water either. Put them on your head or on the ledge. It's ok if they accidentally touch the water, just squeeze them on the ledge discreetly and put away
  • Do not talk loudly or be roudy in Onsen. It's a place for relaxation
  • Don't take pictures inside Onsen