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Tips on Going to a Japanese Onsen
Tip #1: Bring Some 100 Yen Coins
The first thing you will have to do when entering the main lobby of an onsen is to take off your shoes and place them in a locker. Most of the time, these little shoe storages will cost 100 yen, which can be returned once the locker is opened again.
When entering the changing room, there might also be a locker that costs 100 yen to use (again the money is usually returned). Do not make the mistake of going all the way to the onsen without a few spare coins on you!
Tip #2: Do Not Forget Some Towels!
An onsen usually supplies towels, but they will charge around 300 yen for you to use them. If you do not want to spend any money on towels, just bring your own! When going to the onsen, almost everyone brings one big body towel and one smaller washcloth sized towel.
The body towel is used to dry yourself off after you are finished with the onsen and are back in the locker room, while the washcloth sized towel is used as a "privacy" towel. The small towel is also used in bathing before entering the onsen and placed on your head when inside.
Tip #3: Take off Those Clothes!
Now it is the moment of truth. Are you courageous enough to strip down to your birthday suit? This might be the most embarrassing or scary step to going to an onsen for you, but this is part of the onsen experience! When I first went to an onsen, I was nervous at first, but decided to not let that take over an awesome experience.
Do not worry about people staring at you, or judging you. In all honesty, no one cares. It is part of Japan, and part of the culture. Seeing someone naked is not as taboo in Japan as it is in America. Once you step into the onsen, your worries will disappear as you soak in the warm water. There is also the small "privacy" towel, just in case you are not feeling completely up to showing everyone what your all about.
Tip #4: Always Shower Before Going in the Onsen
This is one of the most crucial steps to take before entering the onsen. The onsen is shared by everyone, so it is crucial to clean yourself before going in. From entering into the onsen area, there will usually be a row of sinks, with small seats and a bucket for each. Go to one of these seats and start washing yourself with the soap provided.
If you do not want to wash your hair, that is okay, but you must wash your body. The reason that not washing your hair is okay (although most guys wash there hair, while girls may not), is because it is a little taboo to submerge your head completely under water. You will not see one Japanese person do this. Finally, make sure all the soap is off of you before walking over to the onsen.
Tip #5: Do Not Stay in the Onsen Too Long
As great as it feels to relax inside the hot waters of the onsen, it is important not to overdo it, especially if this is your first time. Everyone is different in how long they can stay inside, but it is better to get out sooner than later. The reason for this is because your head will feel like it is spinning which might cause you to slip or fall. Nothing would hurt more than falling on the hard ground inside of an onsen.
Here is a quick tip for those worried about staying inside too long. In most onsens, there will be a row of seats near the water. Just get out and rest on the seat while you wait for your body to cool off a bit! After you are feeling better go in for a second round of relaxation.
Other Small Words of Advice
-The onsen is a place to relax, do not be the person that runs around acting crazy.
-You take your privacy towel with you everywhere. When in the onsen, the proper place to put this towel is on the top of your head, or on the edge of the onsen, but NEVER in the water.
-The locker rooms have places to dry your hair and do your makeup, as well as cold and warm water to drink.
-Most importantly, have fun and relax!
-Also sometimes, an old lady working at the onsen(obaasan) might go into the men's locker room to clean up. Do not be surprised, it is normal.