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What can I expect from a Japanese bath house?


In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about visiting a Japanese bathhouse, also known as an onsen. Japanese bathhouses are a unique cultural experience that offers relaxation, rejuvenation, and a chance to immerse oneself in Japanese customs. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned onsen-goer, there is always something new to learn.

What is an Onsen?

An onsen is a traditional Japanese hot spring bathhouse that has been around for centuries. These hot springs are known for their therapeutic benefits and have been used for healing purposes for hundreds of years. The water in onsen baths is rich in minerals that are said to have healing properties and can help alleviate various ailments such as arthritis and muscle pains.

Japanese Snack Box

The Etiquette of Onsen

Before entering an onsen, it’s important to understand the etiquette guidelines. Visitors must be clean before entering the bath and should leave their clothes, towels, and personal belongings in designated areas. Tattoos are also not allowed in some onsens due to their association with organized crime.

The Different Types of Onsen

There are many different types of onsen that offer unique experiences. Some onsen are located outdoors, offering stunning views of nature, while others are located indoors in more modern facilities. Some onsens also offer different types of water, such as sulfur or iron-rich water.

Onsen Water Temperature

The temperature of the water in onsen baths can vary greatly depending on the location and type of the bath. Most onsens will have signs indicating the temperature of each bath so visitors can choose which one suits them best. It’s important to note that some baths may be too hot for some visitors.

Onsen Attire

Most onsens provide towels and robes for visitors to wear while using the facilities. The towels can be used to cover up while walking around the bathhouse or sitting on the edge of the bath. It’s important not to use the towel to touch the water as it’s considered unclean.

Onsen Relaxation Areas

In addition to the hot springs, many onsens also offer relaxation areas where visitors can sit and enjoy refreshments such as tea or snacks. These areas are usually quiet and peaceful, perfect for meditation or reading.

Onsen Massage Services

Some onsens also offer massage services to visitors who want to take their relaxation experience to the next level. These services are usually done by trained professionals who can provide traditional Japanese massages or other types of massage therapy.

Onsen Food Options

Many onsens offer food options such as traditional Japanese meals or snacks. Visitors can enjoy these meals before or after using the hot springs, making for a complete cultural experience.

Onsen Accommodations

Some onsens also offer accommodations for visitors who want to stay overnight. These accommodations range from traditional Japanese-style rooms with tatami mats to more modern hotel rooms.

Onsen Benefits

Visiting an onsen offers many benefits beyond just relaxation. The mineral-rich water can help alleviate muscle pain and improve skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Additionally, visiting an onsen can help reduce stress levels and promote overall well-being.


Visiting a Japanese bathhouse is a unique cultural experience that should not be missed. From the therapeutic benefits of the hot springs to the traditional Japanese meals and accommodations, there is something for everyone at an onsen. Understanding the etiquette guidelines and taking advantage of all the facilities has to offer is key to having a memorable onsen experience.

Do you wear clothes in a Japanese bath house?

It is forbidden to wear clothes or bathing suits in the onsen bathing areas, as people consider these places to be sacred and aim to maintain their cleanliness. Clothing can introduce dirt and soap from outside into the hot springs, which is viewed as unhygienic.

What do you wear to a Japanese bathhouse?

In order to use an onsen in Japan, it is mandatory to be completely nude as any clothing or towels are considered unclean and unsuitable for use. Although it may seem daunting, it is a common and accepted practice.

Are Japanese bath houses hygienic?

When traveling to Japan, it’s recommended to visit a bathhouse, as it’s a great way to experience the local culture. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the Japanese value hygiene and cleanliness highly, so be sure to follow some important steps when visiting.

What do you wear to a bathhouse?

You only need to bring a swimsuit, either a one-piece or a bikini, to use the facilities. The area is kept clean and hygienic, with everyone required to wear special slippers for their safety and to avoid contact with the floor.

Do you shower after onsen?

It is advised to not shower after using an onsen (a Japanese hot spring), as it may lessen the therapeutic effects of the minerals in the water. However, it is suggested to take a brief cold shower or bath after leaving the onsen, as it offers its own health benefits.

Are Japanese bathhouses unisex?

The Japanese have perfected the art of onsen, or hot spring baths, for centuries. Traditionally, men and women would bathe together in the same facility, but these days the baths are segregated by gender. Today, konyoku (mixed-gender onsen) are hard to find, with places like Tokyo having bans on such establishments.

Choosing an Onsen

With so many onsens to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide which one to visit. It’s important to do some research beforehand to find an onsen that suits your preferences. Consider factors such as location, water type, and whether the onsen offers additional services such as massages or food.

Onsen in Different Seasons

Visiting an onsen can be a different experience depending on the season. In the summer, outdoor onsens can offer a refreshing escape from the heat, while winter onsens offer a cozy and warm atmosphere to relax in after a day of skiing or snowboarding.

Onsen Safety

While onsen baths are generally safe, it’s important to take precautions to avoid accidents. Visitors should be careful when entering and exiting the bath as the floors can be slippery. It’s also important not to stay in the hot water for too long, especially if you have any medical conditions.

Onsen Culture

Visiting an onsen is not just about using the hot springs, it’s also an opportunity to immerse oneself in Japanese culture. From the traditional robes and slippers to the tea ceremonies and food options, there are many cultural experiences to be had at an onsen.

Onsen for Families

While some onsens may not allow children due to their strict etiquette guidelines, there are many onsens that cater specifically to families. These onsens may have separate areas for men and women, as well as family baths where parents can bathe with their children.

Onsen and Ryokan Packages

Many ryokans, traditional Japanese inns, offer onsen packages for visitors who want to combine their onsen experience with a stay at a traditional inn. These packages often include meals and accommodations, making for a complete cultural experience.

Onsen Tourism

Onsen tourism has become increasingly popular in recent years, with many visitors traveling to Japan specifically to experience these hot springs. Some regions of Japan, such as Beppu and Kusatsu, are known for their abundance of onsens and attract tourists from all over the world.

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