So, you’ve decided you want to visit Japan and you want to experience all that this culturally rich country has to offer. You read about an “onsen” (Japanese hot spring) and thought “Ooohh! A Japanese spa! I must go!” First off, you’re right. You MUST go. Secondly, hold on to your britches (actually, ditch those – you won’t need them), because there is a lot you must know before visiting an onsen.
With over 2,500 onsens in Japan, it’s not difficult to find one to visit. They can be found in traditional Japanese inns, hotels, or day spas for a simple day time trip. Simply pick your budget, decide how much time you’d like to spend on your outing, then get to researching which onsen to visit. Here is a great list of recommended onsens.
You probably already know that the Japanese culture is incredibly polite, and its people are typically extremely traditional in their manners. This may make visiting a quiet onsen intimidating, as you do not want to offend the other visitors. Have no fear! Listed below are five do’s a don’ts for your first onsen trip to ensure that you get the ultimate cultural experience.
1) Do Take Off Your Clothes Completely
I’m going to repeat that, because I am sure you think you didn’t read it right. Take. Off. Your. Clothes. Completely. This includes jewelry. And no, you cannot wear a bathing suit.
The Japanese are incredibly adamant about keeping onsen water completely clean, thus it can be frowned upon if even your towel touches the hot spring. Don’t worry, the onsen will have a locker room area where you can undress and store your belongings before entering the hot spring area.
2) Don’t Feel Insecure
Although Japanese people are typically extremely modest, they have no issue undressing at an onsen – and neither should you!
No one will stare, judge, or discriminate against you, and the vast majority of onsens separate the male and female sections so you don’t need to worry about being with the opposite sex. Strip down and own it, girlfriend! It’s not like you’re going to see anyone you know.
3) Do Shower
The onsen will either provide private showers, or more likely a communal shower area. Remember how I said no one will stare, judge, or discriminate?
That is only if you shower! It’s important to wash your hair and body to make sure you’re completely clean before taking your relaxing dip.
4) Don’t Run, Jump, Skip, Splash, Yell Or Be Obnoxious
You wouldn’t want some rude foreigner disrupting your Swedish massage, would you? Use the same respect at an onsen. If you are with a friend, keep your conversation quiet and at a minimum. Don’t splash, giggle, stare, or do anything that may disrupt the peace of those around you.
5) Do Soak It All In
Pun intended. Onsens are beautiful and relaxing, but even more so than that, they are full of skin pampering minerals to give you that spa-day glow. They’re even believed to remedy health concerns, alleviate chronic stress, and reverse aging!
Whether you are visiting an onsen for the cultural experience, the relaxation, or both: enjoy it! It’s an incredible experience that your friends and family will love hearing about and you’ll love remembering.
What To Know For Visiting Japan
Citizens of many countries can get a free 90 day entry to visit Japan for tourism.
Be sure to check the official Japanese Immigration Website for the latest information for your specific country.
The currency used in Japan is the Japanese Yen (JPY). The current exchange rate is approximately 1 USD to 108 JPY. You can check the latest EUR exchange rate on Google.
While traveling, our number one tip is to use a free Charles Schwab Debit Card which gives unlimited worldwide ATM Fee Refunds and the true exchange rate.
Book Your Onsen Experience
Best Books About Japan
Read more about Japan before you go! Some of the best books about Japan are:
What Power Adapters Do You Need
Japan uses standard Type A and Type B adapters also commonly used in the USA. However, keep in mind that the voltage is different so be careful with your electronics and bring a voltage converter if necessary.
You can buy a universal adapter that will work in any country and has extra ports for USB cables to charge your phone and other devices.
We also always travel with a portable battery pack which is great to keep your phone charged on long journeys.
Transportation In Japan
- Public Transportation: Japan has extensive public transportation by both bus and train. The high speed trains are particularly good.
- Rental Cars: If you want flexibility, we recommend renting a car at the airport. This provides the easiest way to see certain landmarks, though parking in Tokyo can be expensive.
- Uber: Uber is sometimes available in Japan, though it depends on the area (mostly in Tokyo and Kyoto). However, the rules are constantly changing about Uber in Japan due to the strict permits that are required for drivers to offer rides. Metered taxis are readily available. You can use the popular JapanTaxiApp instead of Uber.
Our top recommended travel insurance companies for Japan are:
- World Nomads: Comprehensive coverage for medical, travel delays, and electronics.
- SafetyWing: Cheaper monthly coverage primarily for medical, starting at $37 for 4 weeks of coverage.
For more information, read our article on why you need to book travel insurance for your next trip!
More Articles About Japan
- The Perfect 7 Day Japan Itinerary
- The Top 10 Things To Do In Tokyo
- How To Plan A Trip To Tokyo Disney In 5 Easy Steps
- Naoshima, Japan Will Surprise You
- Why You Should Consider Japan For A Solo Female Trip
- 8 Things To Do In Japan Totally Worth The Hype
- 8 Off The Beaten Path Things To Do In Tokyo, Japan
- Why Every Traveller Should Experience A Traditional Japanese Ryokan
We hope that this article has inspired you to visit a Japanese Onsen. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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