Onsens are a great way to unwind after a busy day on the slopes and an iconic part of Japanese ski holidays. However, they are a little bit different to anything we have at home so can feel intimidating to begin with! Prepare with our thorough guide so you can be feel confident to best enjoy your time.
What is an Onsen?
An Onsen is a Japanese thermal hot spring where the mineral-rich water are said to have healing properties. This is perfect for your tired muscles after a long day of hitting the slopes.
Some things to remember when visiting the Onsen:
Firstly, NO BATHING SUITS!
Yes, you read that right. Typically, Onsens are separated for men and women (however there are some communal options). It may feel a little awkward to begin with but it is completely the norm. Don’t worry, you are given a modesty towel (usually the size of a face cloth or hand towel), but be sure not to allow this towel into the bathing water.
Once in the Onsen, store your belongings in the locker room and have a shower before entering the bath. This shower is very important – the Onsen is for soaking only (not washing). Ensure all soap/shampoo has been rinsed off. If you have long hair, it’s better if it’s tied up so it doesn’t go in the water. The ingredients in the Onsen can make the floor extremely slippery. So, take your time and be careful with your footing.
There is no eating/drinking allowed in the Onsen plus there are strict rules against any photography. While in the water, be largely still and quiet; do not splash or swim around. The Onsens can be a really unique, exciting scene but be careful not to stare or linger in other bather’s personal space. Respect those around you by following the rules set out for the Onsen and be courteous to others.
In some of the smaller, more traditional resorts, tattoos can still be considered offensive. If you have tattoos, try and cover these if you can or check with the operator whether it is okay for you to use the Onsen. If the tattoos are small enough, look at purchasing skin-coloured patches from local drugstores to conceal them so you can enter the communal baths.
Look for the rotenburo (outdoor bath) as they often have great views (most, but not all places have one). It can feel a weird going outside completely nude, but it’s worth it!
Before you leave the Onsen to return to the changing rooms, try your best to dry yourself as much as possible. This can be a difficult task with such a small towel but its considered respectful to not enter the changing rooms dripping wet.
Remember, Onsens are a place for reflection, relaxation and contemplation. Take advantage of the peace and quiet, help your aches and pains and enjoy your experience.
To book a beyond ordinary ski/board experience to Japan including flights, transfers, accommodation, lift passes and activities call the Ski Travel Experts at travel&co.
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