Have you ever wondered why hot springs are such a tradition in Japan? Well, make yourself comfortable and let me take you through the history of onsen, one of Japan’s most beloved activity.
For most foreigners, the hot spring is often associated with the intense fear of wearing your birth costume in front of other people. But fear not! There a few options for the prude ones out there.
One of Japan’s oldest hot springs, the Dogo Onsen in Ehime Prefecture, is thought to have been around for 3000 years, which pretty much explains the fame surrounding these communal baths. With such a rich history, the onsen has been used for centuries for its curative effects. Nowadays, Japanese people see it as a way of relaxing, socializing and getting rid of any stress accumulated throughout the day.
Rich in minerals, the hot springs need to have a temperature of 25 degrees or beyond, making them not only the perfect place to escape to after a busy week, but also a place of admiration for Japanese people. Often found in the middle of mother-nature, surrounded by beautiful scenery, the onsen attracts thousands of people each year.
If you decide to give it a try, there is a certain etiquette that has to be taken into consideration:
1) No clothes allowed
Yes, you heard that right. No clothes, no swimming suits, no coverage at all. The only thing you are allowed to bring inside the onsen is one tiny towel, that is not even meant to touch the water, which Japanese people usually place on their heads.
2) Always shower before you enter the onsen
Every onsen has an area designed for cleaning. The custom of washing oneself before soaking is well rooted in Japanese culture, so make sure you won’t break this essential rule when using the public bath.
Being a taboo in Japan, mostly because they are usually associated with yakuza, the Japanese mafia, tattoos are not allowed in most onsens. For those of you who still want to experience the onsen, in spite of this rule, there’s still hope. Private onsens are a good option not only if you have a tattoo, but also if the idea of getting naked in front of strangers is something that doesn’t go very well with you.
If you are still not convinced the experience is worth a visit, just take a look at some of these famous hot springs. ]