Things You Need to Know Before Entering a Japanese Onsen and How to Have the Best Time There in 2022

Things You Need to Know Before Entering a Japanese Onsen and How to Have the Best Time There in 2021

Japanese hot spring culture is more than just bathing, it is a deep-rooted part of Japan since the ancient time. Let’s explore on ways we can enjoy the Japanese onsen as well as the manners you must considered while using the hot spring.



How to Enter an Onsen

1. Rehydrate before bathing

It is important to ensure that you stay hydrated before entering an onsen. When you take a bath, the blood flow increases due to sweating. Therefore, it is important to drink a glass of water before and after bathing. Drinking sports drinks or vitamin C drinks 15 to 30 minutes before bathing is recommended as it also helps prevent hot flush. 

It is highly dangerous to take a bath immediately after drinking alcohol, so be sure you leave an appropriate gap before taking a bath.


2. Take “Kake-yu”

Kake-yu before entering the bath is not only a manner to clean your body before taking a bath, but it is also important to adjust your body temperature to the heat of the hot spring. Make sure to pour enough hot water to cover your entire body, to ensure your whole body has warmed up to the hot water.

In addition, you can also perform a "hot and cold alternating bath" in which hot and cold water is alternately applied below the knee, peripheral blood vessels will expand, and fatigue substances will be easily excreted, which is effective in recovering from fatigue and is also ideal for improving poor circulation. It is effective to repeat this for 3 minutes with hot water and 1 minute with water, 3 to 5 times.


3. Soak in The Hot Spring and Clean Your Body

It is good manners to clean your body before entering the bathtub. However, it is not recommended to intensely wash your body with body soap before entering. If you remove too much keratin and oil, which are barriers to your skin, before taking a bath, you may cause skin problems, so it is recommended that you wash your body after checking the quality of the spring with your own skin. The effect of the hot spring makes it easy to remove dead skin cells and pores, therefore it is recommended to wash your body by hand, so it does not irritate your skin.


4. Put a Wet Towel on Your Head

You will often see people walking around with a wet towel on top of their head at hot spring. In fact, that is also one of the safe bathing methods. It is recommended to put a cold towel on your head in the "indoor bath" and "summer open-air bath" so it reduces the blood pressure on your head while taking a bath. Towels soaked in hot water are effective in the dangerous "winter open-air bath" where blood vessels in the brain have higher pressure. In addition, once you’re done with bathing, it is important to slowly get out of the bathtub to prevent dizziness.



Split bath

When you are taking Japanese onsen, it is recommended to take a slow bath in the order of "foot bath-> half-body bath-> whole body bath”. This is effective to reduce the burden of water pressure, temperature, and hot spring stimulation. It is also recommended to take a break between each bath, instead of taking a long bath at once, as it will make it difficult to cool down the body temperature when you get out of the bath after a long time. Therefore, it is recommended to take baths in short interval to prevent the body temperature from raising too high.



Most people will take a shower after getting out of the hot spring; however, it is recommended to avoid using hot spring water to rinse your body because it has the effect of forming a film on the surface of the skin, which is not ideal for acidic hot spring. It is recommended to use normal hot water as it does not have an effect of damaging your skin.




Manners When Entering Hot Springs

At the dressing room, there are cautionary notes with illustrations and written in foreign languages ​​such as English posted around the room. Here, we will introduce the minimum etiquette that you might want to keep in mind.


1. Rinse Your Body Before Entering

When you enter the bathroom from the dressing room, there is a hot water bath near the entrance. It is good manners to wash out the sweat and dirt on your body before entering the bathtub, and then wash it off with hot water before entering. This method also has the effect of suppressing sudden changes in blood pressure.


2. Do Not Put Towels in the Bathtub

As a hygiene consideration, avoid putting towels in hot water even if they are unused. The towel is to be kept above water at all time if possible.  


3. Avoid Washing Your Face With Hot Water from the Bathtub

Although it is natural to wash your face in a bathtub if you are at home, but it is not recommended hygienically purely because hundreds of people are immersed in the same hot spring water. To protect your body, wash your face with the provided water from the washing area.


4. Wipe Your Body When You Get Out of the Hot Spring

If you enter the dressing room with your wet body, your feet will be slippery, and it will make people feel uncomfortable. Therefore, make sure you wipe the whole body with a towel so that water does not drip everywhere.


Photo: shigalife



Onsen Etiquette – FAQ

Is Tattoo Allowed?

Technically, it is prohibited to use onsen if you have tattoos because of the association between tattoos and the Japanese Yakuza mafia. However, if you inform the staff before entering, most of them will usually let you in (not always). Typically, public places such as gyms, swimming pools, and saunas don’t allow people with tattoos in Japan. However, the government regulation is changing in order to better suit tourists and travellers, so we suggest you ask the worker before entering. As some onsens may allow you to enter, however they may ask you to cover your tattoos with seals or tape.


Is Alcohol Allowed in the Bath?

No, people are not allowed to consume alcohol while bathing, this is due to many obvious health and safety reasons. However, you should definitely try to stay hydrated with water or non-alcoholic Japanese drinks before entering the bath.


What if it is that Time of the Month?

Women are highly suggested to avoid public onsen during their menstrual cycle.












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