One of the most ancient traditions in Japanese culture, the onsen is a place of purity and serenity.
It’s a part of everyday in Japan and represents a beautiful ritual that all Japanese citizens love and respect. If you’re lucky enough to visit Japan one day, it’s an absolute must-do.
There are lots of things you need to be prepared for before going into an onsen. It’s a sacred space in which rules and regulations must be respected or you will be refused entry. Before trying out your first onsen, be sure to get familiar with the dos and don’ts, as well as the best places to melt your troubles away.
Onsen etiquette isn’t optional; it’s all part of the ancient ritual and foreigners should do their utmost to respect the customs. First of all, you need to be prepared to be naked; there’s no option for wearing swimsuits or anything. It’s mandatory to be completely naked, and men and women are separated with different onsens.
One thing that is generally not accepted in onsens is tattoos. Often considered to be a sign of impurity, visitors with tattoos are required to cover them with bandages in order to preserve the sacredness of the onsen. Finally, before you enter the water, visitors are required to wash themselves thoroughly at the showers; this ensures that the thermal waters remain as clean as possible.
Where to go
Less than two hours away from Tokyo, Hakone is an easy day trip from the capital. Not only does the town offer some of the most picturesque onsen experiences in the area, but it also makes for a welcome respite away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.
Legends have it that the waters at Kusatsu have such immense healing powers that they can cure anything but a broken heart. This destination should absolutely feature in your Japan trip, Kusatsu is one of the most famous onsens in the country and well worth the effort to get there.
An onsen destination if ever there was one, this remote town in Kyushu requires a certain amount of dedication to get to, but once you’re there you can hop around 30 different onsens, all of which have their own personalities and unique traits. A town where the sole activity is relaxation and pampering, you can’t go wrong with Kurokawa.
For those looking for onsens with spellbinding mountain vistas, Noboribetsu is the one for you. Widely considered to be the best onsen in the northern island of the country, Hokkaido, the waters are said to contain sulphur and hydrogen sulfide for healthy and radiant skin.