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Can foreigners go to onsen in Japan?


Onsen, or hot springs, are a quintessential part of Japanese culture. They are known for their therapeutic benefits and are a popular attraction for tourists visiting Japan. However, many foreigners are unsure whether they are allowed to visit onsen due to cultural differences and etiquette. In this article, we will explore whether foreigners can go to onsen in Japan and what they need to know before visiting.

The History of Onsen in Japan

Onsen have been an integral part of Japanese culture for centuries. The country is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, which means there are many hot springs throughout Japan. The first recorded use of onsen dates back to the 8th century when they were used as a form of healing therapy. Over time, onsen became popular among the elite and were considered a luxury. Today, they are accessible to everyone and are a popular destination for tourists.

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The Benefits of Onsen

Onsen are known for their therapeutic benefits due to the minerals present in the water. They are believed to help with a variety of ailments, including joint pain, muscle soreness, and skin conditions. The heat from the water also helps to relax the body and reduce stress. Many people visit onsen as a form of self-care and relaxation.

Cultural Differences and Etiquette

Foreigners may be hesitant to visit onsen due to cultural differences and etiquette. In Japan, onsen are traditionally gender-segregated, meaning there are separate baths for men and women. It is also customary to bathe naked in onsen, which may be uncomfortable for some foreigners who are not used to this practice. Additionally, there are certain rules and etiquette that must be followed in onsen, such as washing your body thoroughly before entering the bath and not bringing any towels or clothing into the water.

Can Foreigners Go to Onsen?

The answer is yes, foreigners can go to onsen in Japan. However, it is important to be aware of cultural differences and etiquette before visiting. Some onsen may have specific rules regarding foreign visitors or may not allow tattoos due to their association with organized crime in Japan. It is always best to check with the onsen beforehand to avoid any misunderstandings.

What Foreigners Need to Know Before Visiting Onsen

Before visiting an onsen, foreigners should research the establishment’s rules and etiquette. It is important to note that some onsen may require reservations or may only allow certain types of clothing or swimwear. Foreigners should also be aware that some establishments may not allow tattoos or may require them to be covered with special stickers or bandages.

How to Enjoy Onsen as a Foreigner

Despite cultural differences and etiquette, foreigners can still enjoy onsen in Japan. It is recommended that foreigners bring their own toiletries and towels as these may not be provided at the establishment. It is also important to follow all rules and etiquette while in the bath area, such as keeping quiet and refraining from using smartphones or other electronic devices.

Where to Find Onsen in Japan

Onsen can be found throughout Japan but are particularly prevalent in areas with volcanic activity such as Hokkaido, Tohoku, and Kyushu. Some popular onsen destinations include Hakone, Kusatsu, and Beppu. There are also many onsen resorts that offer overnight stays and other amenities such as dining options.

The Cost of Visiting Onsen

The cost of visiting an onsen varies depending on the establishment’s location and amenities. Some public baths may only charge a few hundred yen while more luxurious resorts can cost several thousand yen per night. It is important to research prices beforehand and budget accordingly.

Alternative Options for Foreigners

If visiting an onsen is not feasible or comfortable for foreigners, there are alternative options available such as sento (public baths) or private baths that can be rented by the hour. These options still offer the therapeutic benefits of hot springs without some of the cultural differences and etiquette concerns.

The Future of Onsen Tourism in Japan

The Japanese government has recognized the importance of onsen tourism as a means of attracting foreign visitors. In recent years, efforts have been made to make onsen more accessible for foreigners by providing English signage and improving infrastructure. With these efforts, it is expected that more foreigners will visit onsen in Japan in the future.


Foreigners can go to onsen in Japan but need to be aware of cultural differences and etiquette before visiting. Researching the establishment’s rules beforehand can help avoid any misunderstandings or discomfort. Despite these differences, onsen offer a unique opportunity for self-care and relaxation that should not be missed by those visiting Japan.

Can foreigners go to hot springs in Japan?

Visiting an onsen, or natural hot spring, is a popular activity for tourists in Japan. Japanese people also visit onsens to relax and cleanse themselves in naturally heated water.

Who is not suitable for onsen?

It is not advisable for intoxicated individuals to enter an Onsen bathtub as the temperature is typically at least 40 degrees Celsius, which can be harmful to their health. It is recommended that heavy drinkers avoid soaking in the hot water.

How much does it cost to go to a Japanese onsen?

The cost of entering an onsen can vary between JPY 200-2,000, with the better ones usually falling within the range of JPY 400-800. Some onsens provide towels or allow you to rent them, but you can also bring your own.

Are foreigners welcome in onsen?

Kinosaki Onsen is a great destination for those visiting an onsen town in Japan for the first time. It’s conveniently located (just a 2.5 hour train ride from Kyoto or Osaka), welcomes foreigners (with English signage and permission for tattoos), and boasts beautiful scenery.

Do you shower after onsen?

After bathing in an onsen, it is advised not to shower as this can reduce the effectiveness of the minerals in promoting healing. Instead, it is recommended to take a quick and cold shower or bath after leaving the onsen, which can have its own positive health benefits.

Do you shave before onsen?

When it comes to shaving in onsen (Japanese hot springs), there is a gender difference in what is considered acceptable. Men can usually shave in the shower area of the onsen and are even provided with razors. However, for women, it is generally not acceptable to shave in the onsen since it is considered a private activity.

It is important to note that onsen are not just for adults, and many establishments offer family-friendly options. Some onsen have separate baths for families or allow children to use the same bath as their parents. However, it is important to check with the establishment beforehand, as some may have age restrictions or require adult supervision.

For those who may feel uncomfortable bathing naked in front of others or who have tattoos that may not be allowed in traditional onsen, there are also modern onsen that offer private baths. These private baths can be rented for a certain amount of time and allow individuals or groups to enjoy the benefits of hot springs in a more private setting.

When visiting an onsen, it is important to remember that it is a place of relaxation and tranquility. It is customary to be quiet and refrain from disruptive behavior while in the bath area. Additionally, it is important to respect the rules and customs of the establishment and be mindful of others who may be sharing the space.

Overall, onsen are a unique and integral part of Japanese culture that offer a multitude of benefits for both physical and mental well-being. While there may be cultural differences and etiquette concerns for foreigners visiting onsen in Japan, with research and preparation, it is possible to fully enjoy this experience.

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