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Onsen Etiquette
Onsen Resorts

Japan’s misfortune in sitting atop one of the most thermally active areas of the world does have a unique benefit : thousands of natural hot springs scattered right across the country. Some of the best hot spring resorts are in areas of great natural beauty, thus making a great travel destination.

Hot spring bathing first became popular in Japan more than 1,000 years ago. It was originally a preserve of the aristocracy, but spread to the warlords when it was discovered how effective the springs were in healing battle wounds. With the establishment of peace and stability during the Edo Period, the custom of bathing in hot springs was adopted by the hard working farmers. It was the most pleasant and economical way they could relax and recover from the rigors of their lives.

Onsen had a set back in the form of postwar American Puritanism, whereas many mixed bathing facilities were prohibited. They are still around today, especially in Tohoku, but the damage was done, and most onsen you visit will be separated by sex. Hot spring bathing remains an extremely popular custom for people of all walks of life, and the restorative effects of the springs ensure that this delightful custom will continue.

The Japanese have made an art out of bathing. There may not be more of a quintessential Japanese experience than sitting outside under the stairs with a group of strangers soaking in an onsen (hot spring).

Onsen come in all shapes and sizes. Some are more like health spas, and can provide a variety of wellness activities in addition to their healing waters. Others are simple, no-frills establishments that cater to locals who stop by after work for a scrub and a soak. With a little research the visitor canb always find an onsen resort near their city, and your travel agent may even have package trips available that include transportation if you are looking for an overnight stay. When traveling the countryside, just look for the red onsen symbol (have onsen symbol here) they are a godsend for campers and the perfect way to end a day of hiking or skiing. However remember that certain rules of
etiquette need to be followed at all times.



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