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REISEFÜHRER Bathing Manners and Tips: Onsen Bathing Guide Heat up naturally in bubbling indoor and outdoor baths

Experience Japan's hot springs and get to know Japanese bathing culture

Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan is home to some of the world's best hot springs. After days of exploring the country's cities or countryside by foot, a dip in one of these traditional baths is the perfect antidote, and there are plenty of natural water spots to choose from.

Tips

  • Wash yourself thoroughly in the shower area before you enter the baths
  • Leave your jewelry at home — the minerals in the water can cause it to change color
  • Tattoos are forbidden in most hot springs — check with the facility before going

Take a bath Japanese-style

Most facilities have separate baths for male and female guests, marked by split curtains. Inside, you will find a dressing room where you can leave your clothing and personal items. There's no need to bring anything as most facilities have an array of cleansers, washes and scrubs for guests to use. You can take a small towel to cover up, but it should not be placed in the water.

Near the dressing room is the shower area. Each stall is equipped with shampoo, conditioner and body wash, as well as a stool and bucket. Take a seat, and pour hot water over yourself using the bucket. Wash thoroughly and be mindful not to splash others. Once you're clean, you can enter the baths. Note that children cannot bring toys into the bath. The water in hot spring baths is usually around 40 degrees Celsius, so take regular breaks to ensure you don't overheat.

Get dressed up in yukata

When checking in to the onsen or the traditional Japanese-style inn known as ryokan, you will be given a yukata to wear while walking around the common areas of the facility. You can even wear it outside with geta — traditional Japanese sandals. Be sure to hand it back when checking out.

Enjoy medicinal effects

Japanese hot springs are known for their medicinal effects and have long been used to invigorate tired bodies and spirits. But you should know that not all Japanese baths are the same. Depending on the source, the minerals in the hot spring can change. This water type soothes muscle pain, joint stiffness, colds, hemorrhoids, cuts, burns and overall fatigue.

You may have also heard of sento or public bathhouses. These are different from onsen because they use standard water rather than natural hot spring water.

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