Onsen Japanese Hot Springs

Hot springs, or Onsen, are extremely popular among both natives and tourists in Japan. Onsen are regarded as a must-do when traveling to the Land of the Rising Sun because of their tranquil hot springs and rich history.

But how does one go about taking an Onsen in Japan? Which Japanese destinations offer the best Onsen experiences? What suggestions are there on how to appreciate them?

Come along with us as we explore the world of serene, relaxing waters!

What Is Onsen?

A soothing soak in an Onsen is a necessity for any trip to Japan. You asked what an Onsen is? Onsen are naturally occurring hot springs that are heated by both the volcanic activity that created them and the resort-like ambiance that has evolved around many of them.

The use of Japanese Onsen dates back to the days before records were collected. Around 2,300 Onsen are available in Japan, many of which are integrated into ryokan (traditional inns). Utilizing Japan Railways and the Japan Rail Pass makes traveling to the Onsen easy and economical.

The pools are typically divided into different gender-specific areas by barriers, designated bathing spaces, or alternate bathing hours. But Onsen aren’t swimming pools or spas. They serve as settings for relaxation, deep contemplation, casual conversation, and discipline.

Yes, there are rigorous Onsen etiquette guidelines that one must adhere to when attending, just like with practically everything else in Japan.

Onsen Etiquette

Rule 1: Cleanse Off Before Using the Onsen

You must wash your body in the shower before entering the bathing area of most Onsen, which is usually located inside or next to it. If you enter an Onsen with soap, sweat, or dirt on your body, you will be kicked out of the spring. Use this chance to give yourself a thorough cleaning and consider it the start of a full-body skin treatment. After all, the springs are overflowing with natural and healthy substances and minerals that are good for your skin.

Rule 2: You Need to Be Fully Naked

This one cannot be avoided. Clothing, towels, and any other potentially dirty items will never be allowed into an Onsen in Japan because they are seen as sullied or “unclean.” Thus, nudity is explicitly needed, although it actually isn’t a huge concern. If you’ve ever had to take a shower in gym class, being naked in an Onsen is significantly less embarrassing because you’re no longer a teen with a squeaky voice. Plus, no one is concerned with your appearance. Lastly, you’re fairly sure not to get towel-snapped. Having said that, certain Onsen permit bathing suits, but this is quite uncommon, and such an Onsen will typically not provide you with the most authentic Onsen experience.

Rule 3: Modesty Is Valued

Because nudity is necessary, then modesty is highly valued. As you transition between the dressing room, the shower, and the Onsen, then return, take your small towel to nonchalantly conceal your nether parts. You’ll see that the majority of Japanese men and women will be acting similarly.

Rule 4: Never Submerge Your Towel in Water

This brings to mind Rule No. 2, which states that towels are unclean and shouldn’t be in contact with water. Most individuals just cover their heads with the tiny clothing they are provided when checking into the Onsen. Although it may seem absurd, it’s the simplest way to keep your towel and keep the water clean at the same time. You won’t feel as uncomfortable sitting in a 110° tub with a towel over your head when everybody does it.

Rule 5: Stay Afloat 

In an Onsen, it’s pretty much against the rules to submerge your head in the water, and for good reason. Nobody wants their mouth bacteria to be dispersed in an area where bacteria are likely to flourish. In addition, it’s a good idea to avoid dipping your hair into the water to keep hair out of the bath drains and prevent oils and other grooming items from contaminating the water.

Rule 6: Tattoos are not permitted

In a nation where the majority of people still link tattoos with the Yakuza, Japan’s organized crime group, this is a big no-no. If you have a few little tattoos that you can hide with a waterproof bandage, you will not have any trouble going in, but if you have tattoos all over your body, booking a private Onsen through a ryokan is your best option. There are a few Onsen in and around Tokyo that cater primarily to tourists and are therefore more relaxed about tattoos (and nudity, as indicated above), but they are few and far between.

Rule 7: Stay Calm After Your Dip

Most Onsen have areas where you can relax after spending time in the hot spring. These amenities, which range from hot sand chambers to little bars to lounge spaces with massage chairs and bottles of Kirin or sake, are the icing on the Onsen cake, so make the most of them while you can. Where else can you take a snooze beneath a mound of warm sand? Just in Japan!

Which Regions of Japan Are Most Known for Their Onsens?


Unquestionably, Kusatsu, Gunma, is one of Japan’s most well-known “Onsen towns.” This region is an Onsen resort not far from Tokyo, with dozens of baths, many of which are even free and run by the city or community.


Of all the Onsen resorts around Tokyo, Hakone is the most popular one. You can take advantage of the relaxing baths and the Owakudani Valley’s bubbling sulfur springs. A boat cruise on Lake Ashi, numerous shrines, and one of the most iconic views of Mount Fuji may all be found in the stunning Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.

Kurokawa- Oita

Walking through Kurokawa, a charming tiny village, will take you to Oita. It represents culture and history because of the surrounding natural beauty and lovely wooden structures. Its numerous outdoor baths make it a highly popular onsen destination. Some of its smaller ones, which are near Kumamoto Castle and date to the feudal era when numerous lords used to enjoy them, are also some of its most significant historical sites.


Hokkaido’s Noboribetsu is renowned for its “Hell Valley” (Jigokudani), a distinctive volcanic crater that provides onsen waters with their distinctive qualities. Demon statues line the streets of this fantasy-inspired city, while country roads lead to breathtaking vistas of Lake Kuttara and the Noboribetsu Primeval Forest.

Experience Japan!

Onsen are ingrained in Japanese culture and have become a popular tourist attraction. There are numerous destinations to visit, but where you go ultimately depends on your preferences. Some people have made decisions based on the potential health advantages of taking a bath. Others have wished to take pleasure in the water while amidst stunning scenery and a full moon. In either case, it is one of the sights that visitors to Japan must not skip.

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