Onsen / Japanese Hotsprings Japanese

Since Japan is a country with many volcanoes, there are hot springs all over the country from north to south. According to the Ministry of the Environment, there are more than 3,000 hot spring resorts in Japan

In comparing Western and Japanese hot springs, we can see a major cultural difference: Whereas in the West people have used hot springs for exercise and thermotherapy, always wearing a swimsuit when doing so, in Japan people have used them by soaking themselves up to their shoulders while naked.@These natural treasures have been used by many not only for medical purposes but also as places to interact with others and relax.

There is a Japanese expression, gHadaka no tsuikiai,h which basically translates as ggetting to know each other while naked.h The idea is that when you are naked itfs easier to open yourself up to other people as you forget about hiding yourself or putting up any fronts of vanity. This concept may very well have been created because of the fact that the Japanese are normally bound by strict regime of superior-inferior relationships.

Because of such cultural background and history, Onsen, since ancient times, have always been a central feature of Japanese tourism.  Popular onsen resorts are often crowded with couples, families or company groups who want to get away from the hectic life of the city to relax.

Visiting onsen resorts is not only one of the most popular holiday activities among the Japanese, but is also highly recommended for any foreign visitors of Japan. The ultimate in hot springs can be experienced by spending a night at an onsen ryokan, a Japanese style inn with hot spring baths. Onsen ryokan can be found in various sizes in hot spring resorts across Japan. A typical onsen ryokan visit starts with a bath before dinner. The beautifully arranged Japanese style dinner can be enjoyed not only in a dining hall but also in your room. Eating in your own room is called gHeya-shoku,h and is considered one of the luxuries at Japanese-style inns. Many guests like to take another bath before sleeping and before breakfast the next morning.

Some people from foreign countries may think, gI am uncomfortable going to Japanese hot springs because I donft know what is proper or improper there.h Here we will introduce a few basic points on how to take a bath at Japanese hot springs
1)      Take off all your clothes in the changing room and place them into a basket together with your bath towel. Coin lockers for valuables are often available.
2)       Japanese hot springs are to be enjoyed naked. Swimming suits are not allowed in most places. However, it is custom to bring a small towel into the bathing area, with which you can cover yourself while outside of the water. Once you enter the bath, keep the towel out of the water. 
3)      Before entering the bath, put water from either a faucet or the bath into a provided washbowl, and pour it onto yourself to rinse yourself clean. Just rinsing your body like this is usually sufficient unless you are excessively dirty, in which case you should use soap.
4)       Enter the bath and soak for a while. Note that the bath water can be very hot (typical temperatures are 40 to 44 degrees Celsius). If it feels too hot, try to enter very slowly and move as little as possible. 
5)      After soaking for a while, get out of the bath and sit in front of one of the water taps to wash yourself off with soap. Soap and shampoo are provided in some baths. Just as in the case of private Japanese bathrooms, make sure that no soap gets into the bath water. After cleaning your body, be sure to tidy up the space you used. 
6)       Re-enter the bath and soak some more. 
7)       After you have finished soaking, do not rinse your body with tap water, so that the minerals from the hot spring take maximum effect on your body. 

This may sound difficult, but all you need to know is to keep the bath water clean so that everyone can enjoy it.
For those who feel reluctant to bathe in the presence of others, we recommend choosing a guestroom equipped with a bathing room. In recent years, there have been an increasing number of ryokans with guestrooms attached to private rotenburo (open-air bath). When entering a rotenburo that has a nice view, you can experience the sensation of being one with nature.

Taking a quiet and leisurely soak by yourself is one option, or you can have lively conversation in the bathtub with your friends or family.  Lounging in a spacious bathtub will soothe away your daily fatigue and stress for sure!