Everything You Need to Know About Onsen Culture

23rd January 2020

Japan is a country of opportunity. Each town and city offers a unique experience for visitors to enjoy, but one of the things that link the country together is heritage and culture. Shinto and Buddhism are religions that shape societies belief and ideals. Many examples of this can be seen throughout Japan, not only through the impressive numbers of temples and shrines but also through activities and experiences that are available to all. One of these experiences in Onsen. If you’re unsure of this culture, read on to find out all you need to know.

What is Onsen Culture

Onsen is the Japanese term for Hot-Springs. Japan holds a wealth of hot-springs, in over 3,000 areas and you should include a visit to one on your adventure. Although it may not seem like a particularly specific thing, there are governed regulations for what may be referred to as an Onsen. Legally, the spring water must contain at least one of the 19 specific minerals and be naturally over 25 degrees (although most are more like 40 degrees).

Where Can I Find Onsen?

Well, with over 3,000 areas providing them, you should have no trouble discovering an Onsen to experience. Hot-Springs can be found in cities such as Kamuraka, remote mountains like the Karuizawa Onsens, or wild on hikes to remote locations. Bathing areas range anywhere from nearly boiling tubs and saunas to secluded rocky pools or simply carved baths, meaning you can choose the experience best suited to your needs.

The Culture

So, we know what your thinking – what is a hot-spring culture? Well, Onsen Culture is essentially the Japanese Culture of Bathing. Like many other cultures, Japan has developed ties between water and bathing. Cleanliness is truly close to godliness and taking the time to look after your body will bring good fortune to your life. Links to Onsens in Japanese culture go back to the 1st Century, and the beneficial properties of the water have turned it into a popular tourist experience. When bathing in the Karuizawa Onsen or any other in Japan, it’s important to follow the etiquette so you don’t offend.

Etiquette

Upon arrival, some visitors do get a little intimidated at the prospect of Onsen, because to bathe in Onsen Culture, means to be completely nude. Don’t worry though, if that isn’t for you, baths such as the Karuizawa Onsen welcome guests to wear bathing-costumes. In many establishments, however, Japanese Onsens do include nudity, so it’s best to research before you go! In these Onsens, guests are allowed a small towel, which should be used to cover private parts when walking but should be hung up before entering the Onsen.

Before bathing at any Onsen, you will be given the facilities to have a proper scrub down from head to toe. This is essential and an important part of the etiquette that is acceptable, as you need to be cleansed of every-day dirt to fully cleanse the body and soul in the Onsen. Finally, if you are visiting a religious Onsen such as Furasato, men and women bath together, but in white robes to represent purity, so be sure to collect one to avoid any offence.

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