This week I am launching what will be a weekly segment called “Travel Tip Thursday”. These posts will relatively short and feature tips on everything from cultural traditions (like this week) to general travel tips I’ve gathered over my travels. In general the tips will relate to the main post of the week on Tuesday!
To start this series since it is so fitting with the topic of my Tuesday post Japan as a Turning Point is Japanese Onsen Etiquette. An Onsen is a Geothermal Spring that can be used for bathing and like everything in Japan has a lot of deep cultural traditions to follow behind it. The Onsen is the water source for the town which then diverts it as needed to accommodate the public and private bathing facilities in the town surrounding it. Another key feature of the Onsen is that it contains one of the designated elements, each element is connected to a specific healing property so people will visit different Onsen’s to receive the benefits of that particular Onsen.
There are Onsen’s located through out Japan. If you are in a town that has one (like Kyoto) you can buy a day pass to the town’s different bathing facilities. Another option is to stay at a Ryokan (traditional inn) for the full experience.
- Yes this is a nude situation, anything more is disrespectful/unclean. Embrace the local culture, have no shame (at least in this situation).
- Many places will have mixed and female only pools. There is also often private bathing pools available if booked in advance.
- You MUST bath before you enter the bathing pool. By each bathing pool there will be a small wooden bucket and spigot. You use the bucket to pour water over yourself to clean yourself off, this water is way colder than the actual bathing pool.
- If you are given a small towel this is to not end up in the bathing pool. You can soak it in the colder water and keep it on your head to regulate your temperature in the hot water.
- Do not put your head in the water, your hair is dirty, the water is clean. Wash your hair at the spigot if you must.
- If you have tattoos you might be denied access to the public bathing pools due to connotations to the Yakuza. If you are obviously western you probably are okay but it is best to ask someone first for the proper etiquette in the town you are in.
- You will most likely be wearing a Happi Coat at some point. This is the generally cotton robe that looks kimono like but is not. When wearing it make sure LEFT crosses over RIGHT as the other way signifies death as that is how they dress the dead.
- Lastly but not leastly in regards to shoes. Remove them when you see a sea of shoes on the ground. Shoes are dirty from the outside world so remove them for the clean environment of the Onsen (also this in it’s self could be a longer topic!)