Onsen Etiquette

Leo Alsved

By Leo Alsved

Posted on 12th December 2017

Every trip to Japan should include a visit to an onsen, a Japanese-style hot spring. These baths are invigorating, rejuvenating, and refreshing, especially after a long day on the slopes. Japanese people adhere to long-established, and not always intuitive, etiquette when visiting onsen. Follow the guidelines below to make sure your onsen experience is an awesome one!

Don’t bring your swimwear

You heard us. All onsen are nude - this means no swimwear allowed! No worries though, onsen are separated by gender, with completely separate bathing areas for men and women. Only a few onsen, usually very basic and rural, offer mixed pools. Some onsen also have private family pools that can be rented exclusively for your group. Remember: nude is not crude.

Bring two towels

While most onsen rent towels out at the front desk, you’re more than welcome to bring your own. In addition to your normal towel, bring a smaller face cloth-like towel. This is your ‘modesty’ towel for walking between pools. When you're in the water, don’t submerge your towel - let it rest on your forehead or put it to the side.

Wash up

All onsen require guests to clean themselves thoroughly at the wash basins before entering the water. This is an important cultural feature of onsen - the bathhouse aspect of an onsen is just as important as the hot spring itself.

Cover your tattoos

Onsen traditionally refuse guests with tattoos due to their association with the Yakuza. However, due to the international nature of Niseko, this rule may not always be enforced in the region.

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