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Do the hot springs in Japan smell?


Hot springs are a popular attraction in Japan, with thousands of visitors flocking to the country to experience their therapeutic benefits. But with the popularity of hot springs comes the question of whether or not they smell. In this article, we will explore whether or not hot springs in Japan have an odor, and the reasons behind it.

The Science of Hot Springs

Hot springs are formed when water is heated underground by geothermal activity, often caused by volcanic activity. The heat causes minerals to dissolve in the water, creating a natural hot tub. The minerals found in hot springs can vary, but often include sulfur, which is known for its strong odor.

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Types of Hot Springs in Japan

Japan has over 26,000 hot springs, known as “onsen” in Japanese. These hot springs are categorized based on their mineral content, with each type having its own unique properties and benefits. Some of the most common types of hot springs in Japan include sulfur springs, iron-rich springs, and saltwater springs.

The Sulfur Smell

Sulfur is one of the most common minerals found in hot springs, and it is also responsible for the distinctive smell associated with many hot springs in Japan. The smell of sulfur is often described as rotten eggs or a pungent sour odor. While some people find the smell unpleasant, others find it therapeutic.

The Benefits of Sulfur

Despite its strong odor, sulfur has many therapeutic benefits. Sulfur has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including skin conditions, respiratory problems, and arthritis. Soaking in a sulfur-rich hot spring can help to ease muscle tension, soothe sore joints, and improve circulation.

Iron-Rich Hot Springs

Iron-rich hot springs are also common in Japan, and they are known for their distinctive rust-colored water. While iron-rich hot springs do not have a strong odor, the high iron content can cause the water to stain clothing and skin.

Other Minerals Found in Hot Springs

In addition to sulfur and iron, hot springs in Japan can contain a variety of other minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and sodium. These minerals can have their own unique benefits, such as improving skin health, reducing inflammation, and promoting relaxation.

Onsen Etiquette

Visitors to hot springs in Japan are expected to follow certain etiquette rules. Before entering the hot spring, visitors are required to wash themselves thoroughly to ensure that the water stays clean. Visitors are also not allowed to wear clothing or bring towels into the hot spring.

Hot Springs and Tourism

Hot springs are a major attraction for tourists in Japan, with many visitors traveling to different regions of the country specifically to experience them. Hot springs are not only beneficial for physical health but also promote relaxation and stress relief.

Hot Springs and Sustainability

With the popularity of hot springs comes the need for sustainability. Hot springs require a delicate balance of water flow and temperature to maintain their therapeutic benefits. Overuse of hot springs can lead to depletion of minerals and damage to the surrounding environment.

The Future of Hot Springs in Japan

As tourism continues to grow in Japan, so does the demand for hot springs. However, it is important to balance this demand with sustainability efforts. The Japanese government has implemented regulations on hot spring usage to ensure their preservation for future generations.


Hot springs in Japan are a unique and beneficial attraction that draws thousands of visitors every year. While some may find the sulfur smell unpleasant, the therapeutic benefits far outweigh any temporary discomfort. With proper etiquette and sustainability efforts, hot springs in Japan can continue to be enjoyed for years to come.

Are hot springs supposed to smell?

Sulfur compounds are found naturally in hot springs and are responsible for the distinct smell of rotten eggs. It is worth noting that the stronger the smell, the deeper the hot spring and the faster the water is sent to the surface. This was observed on May 24, 2018.

Do you smell after hot springs?

The minerals found in hot springs, especially sulfur, which are beneficial for your health, can also produce a smell similar to that of eggs. This was reported on March 6th, 2018.

Are Japan hot springs clean?

Regardless of the size of the bath, whether it’s a communal or individual one, it is customary to wash outside the tub before entering it, ensuring everyone is clean. A washing area is provided with a stool, wash pan, and separate showers, and even the stools and pans are shared among the users.

Do Japanese people wear towels in hot springs?

When visiting an onsen in Japan, it is required that you are fully naked. This is because clothing, towels, and other items that may be worn are seen as unclean and should not be brought into the onsen.

Do you wear clothes in Japanese hot spring?

Visitors to the onsen are not allowed to wear any clothing or swimwear in the bathing area. This is because onsen are considered to be sacred places where cleanliness is highly valued. Wearing clothes or swimwear can introduce dirt and soap into the hot spring waters from outside, which is seen as unhygienic.

Can you swim in hot springs in Japan?

Swimming is prohibited, as the bathroom floor may be slippery due to the Onsen ingredient. It is also important to walk slowly and be cautious. Even if the bathtub is large, swimming is not allowed. The main purpose of taking an Onsen is to not only cleanse the body but also to relax and unwind by soaking in the hot springs.

Hot Springs Outside of Japan

While Japan is known for its abundance of hot springs, it is not the only country with this natural attraction. Hot springs can be found all over the world, from Iceland to New Zealand, and each location has its own unique properties and benefits. Many of these hot springs are also popular tourist attractions.

Hot Springs and Wellness Tourism

Hot springs are becoming increasingly popular as part of wellness tourism, which focuses on physical and mental well-being. Many wellness retreats and spas incorporate hot springs into their offerings, recognizing the therapeutic benefits they provide. This trend is expected to continue as more people prioritize self-care and relaxation.

The Cultural Significance of Hot Springs in Japan

Hot springs have a deep cultural significance in Japan, dating back to ancient times. They are not only valued for their therapeutic benefits but also for their social and communal aspects. Hot springs are seen as a place to relax, connect with others, and escape the stresses of daily life.

The Future of Hot Springs Technology

As technology advances, so does the potential for innovation in the hot springs industry. Some hot springs in Japan have already begun to incorporate technology such as sensors and data analysis to monitor water quality and usage. This technology could help to improve sustainability efforts and ensure the longevity of hot springs for future generations.

The Role of Hot Springs in Climate Change

Climate change could have a significant impact on hot springs around the world. As temperatures rise, the delicate balance of water flow and temperature in hot springs could be disrupted, affecting their therapeutic benefits. Additionally, extreme weather events such as floods or droughts could damage or destroy hot springs. It is important to consider the potential effects of climate change on hot springs and work towards mitigation efforts.

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