Japanese Hot Spring Etiquette

Planning a trip to a Japanese hot spring or onsen? There are a few small things to be aware of first before you rush in. Take a look at KKday’s guide to onsen etiquette to avoid any potentially embarrassing moments and ensure your visit is as relaxing as possible.

Flickr | Ryan McBride

No Tattoos

Flickr | Molly.Green.

Many onsen places in Japan will warn that they will not accept visitors who have tattoos. This is due to the fact that tattoos are associated with Japanese gangsters or Yakuza, so in order for other guests to feel comfortable, anyone with a tattoo, even foreigners, are usually not allowed in.

Clean Up First

Flickr | Sarah-Rose

One of the most important rules of going to bathe in a hot spring is to take a shower first. Not only is it considered good manners to clean up before getting in to the baths it is also beneficial to raise your body temperature to similar levels that will be found in the onsen to avoid the sudden shock of heat to your body. It’s also considered more hygienic to tie up long hair.

Sit Down While Washing

Flickr |

When washing, take a seat at one of the provided stools. Not only will this limit splashing nearby people, it will also help with reducing the amount of water required to wash.

Don’t Bring Your Towel into the Hot Spring

Flickr | Silvia Benedet

Even if you’re a little shy, you should absolutely not bring the towel into the water with you!

Keep the Noise Down

If you are bringing kids with you to the onsen, keep an eye on them and don’t allow them to run around. This is both for safety and to avoid disturbing the other guests. Also be mindful of your own noise levels and be careful not to be too loud, this is a place for peaceful relaxation after all.

Don’t Lay Down Next to the Hot Spring

Don’t lay down or sit down by the side of the hot spring. This is to avoid obstructing other visitors from entering and exiting the baths.

Wash Before Heading Back to the Changing Rooms

Take another wash before heading back to the changing rooms and make sure to wring dry your towel. This is so as to not drip too much water over the changing rooms, both in respect to the other guests and as a matter of safety. It’s also better to wait until you are outside before using your mobile phones.

Alternating Male and Female Baths

Flickr | Maarten Heerlien

Some hotels will alternate the male and female baths. This is due to the two baths and the surroundings being different, by alternating them, everyone can experience both sides. Because some baths will switch from male to female and vise versa, make sure to check you’re going into the right room before entering.

Now you’re up to speed with Japanese onsen etiquette, it’s time to go relax!

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