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Can foreigners go to hot springs in Japan?


Japan is known for its hot springs or “onsen,” which are a significant part of the country’s culture and history. Many foreigners are interested in experiencing Japanese hot springs, but they may be unsure if they are allowed to visit them. In this article, we will discuss whether or not foreigners can go to hot springs in Japan, what to expect when visiting an onsen, and some tips for making the most of your experience.

The Legalities of Visiting Japanese Hot Springs as a Foreigner

Japanese hot springs have traditionally been off-limits to foreigners, but this is no longer the case. In 1947, the Japanese government passed a law that prohibits discrimination against foreigners in public facilities, including hot springs. However, some hot springs still enforce their own rules that may exclude foreigners.

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Understanding Japanese Onsen Culture

Before visiting a Japanese hot spring, it’s essential to understand the customs and etiquette surrounding onsen culture. For example, it’s customary to bathe naked in onsens, and there are separate baths for men and women. Visitors must also wash their bodies thoroughly before entering the onsen.

Types of Onsens in Japan

Japan has many different types of hot springs, including natural hot springs and artificial ones. Natural onsens are often located in rural areas and offer stunning views of nature, while artificial ones can be found in cities and urban areas.

Onsen Booking Tips for Foreigners

Booking an onsen experience can be challenging for foreigners who don’t speak Japanese. However, there are several ways to book an onsen experience online or through tour operators. Some onsens also provide English-language information on their websites.

Onsen Rules and Regulations

Each onsen has its own set of rules and regulations that visitors must follow. These rules can include things like no tattoos or piercings, no drinking alcohol in the onsen, and no loud talking or noise.

What to Bring to an Onsen

Visitors to an onsen should bring a towel, shampoo, soap, and any other personal hygiene items they may need. Some onsens provide towels and other amenities, but it’s always best to bring your supplies.

Onsen Etiquette for Foreign Visitors

It’s essential to be respectful of Japanese culture and customs when visiting an onsen. Visitors should avoid making noise, taking photos, or behaving inappropriately while at the onsen. It’s also crucial to follow the rules and regulations of the specific onsen you are visiting.

How to Enjoy Your Onsen Experience

Visiting an onsen is a unique and relaxing experience that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. To make the most of your experience, take your time and enjoy the natural beauty around you. Take a deep breath and let go of any stress or anxiety.

Common Misconceptions About Japanese Hot Springs

There are many misconceptions about Japanese hot springs, such as the idea that they are only for elderly people or that they are too expensive for foreigners to visit. However, these beliefs are not true, and anyone can enjoy an onsen experience in Japan.


Visiting a Japanese hot spring can be an unforgettable experience for foreigners visiting Japan. With the right preparation and understanding of onsen culture, anyone can enjoy the natural beauty and relaxation of these unique facilities. Remember to be respectful and follow the rules of the specific onsen you visit, and you’re sure to have an incredible time.

Can foreigners go to onsen in Japan?

Kinosaki Onsen is the perfect destination for those wanting to experience a traditional Japanese hot spring town. It is conveniently located only 2.5 hours away from Kyoto or Osaka by train, welcomes foreigners with English signage and allows tattoos, and boasts a picturesque setting.

Are there public hot springs in Japan?

Kinosaki is known for its hot springs, particularly the seven public ones that are the most well-known. Tourists enjoy walking through the charming and accessible streets of Kinosaki in yukata and trying out all seven of the famous hot springs.

Can you swim in hot springs in Japan?

Swimming is prohibited and caution should be taken when walking in the bathroom as the floor may be slippery due to Onsen ingredients. It is also advised not to swim in the bathtub, as the main purpose of taking Onsen is to relax and rest while soaking and cleansing one’s body.

Who should avoid onsen?

If you have certain symptoms, you may want to avoid bathing in an onsen depending on the type of spring water. It is important to know the contraindications related to the quality of the spring water, especially if you are elderly with dry skin, as your symptoms could worsen.

Is it OK to wear a swimsuit in an onsen?

In the onsen bathing areas, it is not permitted to wear clothes or bathing suits as they can introduce dirt and soap into the hot spring waters and compromise their cleanliness. Onsens are considered somewhat sacred and efforts are made to maintain their hygienic standards.

Do you shower after onsen?

After soaking in an onsen, it is advised not to shower as it can decrease the effectiveness of the healing minerals. Instead, it is recommended to take a quick cold shower or bath after leaving the bath, which also has its own health benefits.

Health Benefits of Onsens

Aside from being a relaxing experience, visiting an onsen can also have health benefits. The minerals and heat found in the hot springs can help relieve muscle pain, improve circulation, and reduce stress. Some onsens also offer medicinal baths that are said to have healing properties for various ailments.

Onsen Tourism in Japan

Onsen tourism is a popular industry in Japan, with many hot springs located in popular tourist destinations such as Hakone, Beppu, and Kusatsu. Some onsens offer overnight accommodations, allowing visitors to experience the hot springs at different times of the day and night.

Tattoos and Onsens

While tattoos are becoming more accepted in Japan, some onsens still prohibit visitors with tattoos from entering. This is because tattoos are often associated with the yakuza, or Japanese mafia. However, some onsens have relaxed their rules regarding tattoos and may allow visitors to cover them with bandages or stickers.

Onsens Outside of Japan

Japanese hot springs have become popular outside of Japan as well, with many countries now offering their own versions of onsens. These hot springs often follow Japanese customs and etiquette, providing a similar experience to visiting an onsen in Japan.

The Future of Onsen Tourism

As Japan continues to attract more tourists, onsen tourism is expected to grow as well. The government and private sector are investing in new facilities and promoting onsen tourism to attract more visitors. As a result, foreigners can expect more opportunities to experience the unique culture and relaxation of Japanese hot springs.

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