Onsen Etiquette

People really love to visit onsen on their Japan trip because it is a extremely unique experience. However, enjoying onsen comes with some cultural observances foreigners want to be aware of. By knowing the special rules and manners, you can make the most of the experience and indulge in total relaxation.

Steps for Taking an Onsen Bath

1. Take off your shoes

The changing rooms always have traditional Japanese floors (tatami). Take off your shoes before you enter one.

2. Remove  all of your clothes

Almost all of the onsen are nude only. Remove your clothes and put them in the baskets or lockers provided. You can only bring a small towel with you.

No worries! There is a long tradition of cultural understanding about being naked in an onsen bath so you don't have to be shy. You can choose private onsen bath if you need more privacy.

Tidy up your hair if it's too long so no hairs will be immersed in onsen.

3. Completely shower yourself

Sit on the stool and take a prebath shower with soap. It is to clean your body thoroughly and rinse off sweats so as to keep the onsen clean. Another reason is to slowly accustom your body to the temperature of the hot onsen water to prevent sudden rise of blood pressure. 

4.  Slowly immerse yourself halfway first

After shower, you can bring the wet cloth on a nearby rock or put it on your head to keep your head refresh but never in the onsen. Step into the bath calmly and quietly, and then start by immersing yourself halfway to let your body acclimate to the hot onsen water. Then you can slowly immerse yourself to your shoulders. It is to reduce the strain on your heart by high temperature and water pressure.

More effectively, some will wash their bodies again just after warming up in a bath. Old dead skin cells are softened and pores open allowing dirt to be rinsed off more easily.

5. Take breaks

Take breaks and drink water between each bathing interval to avoid too much pressure on blood pressure and heart rate. Normally, each interval should not be more than 15 minutes and should be even less for high temperature onsen. Get up when you feel dizzy or too hot.

Bathing in onsen no more than three times a day. When locals stay at onen ryokan for a night, they will take onsen bath before dinner, before sleeping and before check-out in the next morning.

6. Allow your body to dry naturally

After bathing, it’s best not to rinse your body but just only wipe off the beads of water  in order to let those active ingredients be absorbed by your skin.

However, for stimulating strong acidic/sulphate/sulphur onsen or people with sensitive skin, it is better to rinse off with normal warm water.

7. Drink water

As you have sweated and consumed energy while bathing in onsen,  rehydrate with lukewarm water, sport drinks or milk which normally available in the bath house, and take a rest to relax.

More Tips of Onsen Bathing

  • Avoid alcohol drinks before bathing.

  • After meal, rest for an hour before bathing.

  • Avoid onsen if you have severe cardiovascular diseases, acute arthritis or cancer.

  • Do not immerse your hairs or towels in onsen.

  • No swimming or diving in onsen.

  • Tattoos are not welcome in most of the onsen (exceptions do exist). Remember to ask before entering or choose ryokan with private onsen baths or rooms with private onsen attached.

  • Stay calm while bathing.

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