ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Trying a Japanese Hot Spring (Onsen)

Updated on December 16, 2017
poppyr profile image

Poppy is the author of "A Bard's Lament." She lives in Enoshima and likes to read novels and play video games, especially open-world RPGs.

Many people know about famous hot springs in Japan - the active volcano, Mt. Fuji, and its volcanic activity has produced plenty of natural springs all over the country in valleys and mountains, as well as there being many man-made, indoor springs available to visit in the bigger cities.

A common pastime for the Japanese people is to visit one of these springs for some detoxifying stress relief, either alone or socially with others. This article is about my experience with my homestay family visiting an outdoor public hot spring in winter, and what to expect if you plan to visit one yourself.

Macaque, AKA 'snow monkeys' relaxing in a hot spring.
Macaque, AKA 'snow monkeys' relaxing in a hot spring. | Source

Man Made VS Natural Hot Springs

For people who live in big cities such as Tokyo, its cheaper and far more convenient to visit a man made hot spring, where showers, lockers, hairdryers and changing rooms are readily available, along with a relaxing restaurant to wind down in afterwards. However, this includes a fee. Some people choose to seek out a natural hot spring in the countryside - although many of these are 'owned' as well, and cost to get in. The natural experience is very different to a public bath - for one, you could end up bathing with Japanese macaque, or "snow monkeys". I would recommend going to a public bath first, to get a feel of the experience, and then seeking out a natural bath if you feel brave enough.

Many Japanese hotels, such as ryokan, have hot springs, usually outside, for visitors to bathe in. It's a very traditional way for the Japanese to relax and do some spiritual healing, and dates back hundreds and even thousands of years, when warriors, royalty and peasants alike would bathe in the onsen, relaxing mind as well as body.


We went to an outdoor natural hot spring in a freezing January evening in the Gunma prefecture - it had a restaurant where we could nibble on snacks and have a drink before we went for a soak. The atmosphere was relaxed and sleepy, as if everyone had left their stress and tension at home, and were meeting to bathe their worries away.

What you need

Some preparation is involved when going to a hot spring. Firstly, you will of course need a towel or two to dry yourself. Some hot spring facilities provide hairdryers, but take your own if you're not sure. Alternatively, it's a good idea to tie your hair up in a bun or a ponytail and avoid getting your hair wet altogether, and save time whilst drying. The water in a hot spring is extremely hot, and for relaxing, not swimming. Keeping your hair dry might be the best idea.

Keep in mind that you have to be completely naked when going into a hot spring, so you don't need to pack a bathing costume. Another suggestion would be to get hydrated before you go in - with the hot water and the steam, it's like sitting in a sauna, and you can stay in there for up to an hour or two. Make sure you don't get a headache or feel nauseated by drinking plenty of water before you go in.


Getting in

Being a 'gaijin', or foreigner, the Japanese tend to stare a bit anyway. I won't lie - getting naked in front of a load of other women made me more embarrassed than I expected. Even my mother who was there with me didn't care about being starkers in front of a load of strangers. In this case, you may take a smaller towel with you to cover up whilst you're walking round, if you like.

Tattoos are strictly associated with the Japanese mafia, the Yakuza, and are frowned upon, even amongst foreigners. If you have any tattoos, make sure these are well covered with a waterproof bandage before attending a hot spring, or you might not be allowed inside.

The spring was outside the building, and in the freezing cold winter, it seemed as if it'd be impossible to walk around outside with no clothes on. But the hot water and the steam ensured that it was lovely and warm to walk around in before sliding into the water. The hot spring relaxed your entire body, and you could chat with the people around you whilst enjoying feeling the tension completely leave your body. If you're stressed, nervous, or a tense person in general, visiting a hot spring is sure to relax you.

Afterwards, we went to the restaurant, which sold some delicious food, ranging from traditional Japanese food like udon noodles, to western food like french fries and chicken. After the hot bath I was so relaxed I could barely move my arms, but hungry and thirsty enough where I ate an embarrasingly huge amount of food and drink. It was a really fun and chilled out evening, and I slept like a log that night.

Whilst in Japan, visiting a hot spring, or onsen, is definitely worth a try to get immersed in some Japanese culture, and relax after a tiring day of travelling, exploring or hiking. For a list of hot springs in the Tokyo area, click here.

© 2014 Poppy


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Link10103 profile image


      6 years ago

      For whatever reason, after reading this I couldn't help but remember the Naruto episode where everyone wants to see Kakashi's face at the hot spring but he keeps the mask on even as he is naked.

      I want to visit Japan, although I think the main reason for that is because I have a thing for asian women. Maybe one day...


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)