Onsen - Japanese Hot Springs
By: W. Dire Wolff
your stay in Japan, there may be an Onsen (hot spring)
at the hotel or Ryokan ( Japanese Inn) you stay at.
You will find the Onsen is a wonderful way to relax
after a long day of business or sightseeing. The Japanese
people have been enjoying the pleasures of the Onsens'
hot waters for centuries. Local bath houses and trips
to hot spring resorts provide the Japanese people with
a luxurious form of relaxation. Although in modern times
most people visit the Onsen to relax, the Japanese government
also recognizes the onsen as capable of providing medical
treatment for certain ailments. Furthermore, some Buddhists
of Japan once had integrated hot springs bathing into
religious ceremonies There are numerous areas of Japan
where people can find an abundance of hot springs. In
these areas there are usually hot spring resorts with
nicely developed facilities. For those a little more
adventurous, onsens in more natural surroundings can
be found in rural areas of Japan.
volcanic activity that is constantly churning under
the land mass of Japan has created devastating earthquakes.
But this same force of nature also has created the abundance
of hot springs there. There are over 2,000 known onsens
in Japan. In some areas of Japan, the power of the hot
springs is used to produce electricity in Geothermal
Power Plants. Onsens are a great nature resource in
Japan, and most recently they have been exploited to
the past, shared community baths were a part of local
Japanese cultures. As more western influences have crept
into the Japanese culture, baths shared by both men
and women have become less popular. In particular, younger
Japanese women prefer to frequent onsens with separate
bathing facilities for men and women. Now most resorts
and hotels offer women and men separate bathing areas
and pools. In some Onsens, a very special outside or
deluxe hot spring area is alternated for use by men
or women, depending on the time of the day, or day of
the week. There may be more standard hot springs available,
during the off hours if a special Onsen exists with
regulated hours of usage. In some places, mixed sex
communal baths are still in operation.
springs in outdoors and wilderness settings can be found
for the more adventurous travelers. These hot springs
may be accessed for a small fee or sometimes undeveloped
hot springs are free for usage. In some cases, the outdoor
hot springs can only be reached by backpackers or after
a short hike. In other areas, showers and changing rooms
have been developed close to parking areas located by
the undeveloped pools. Books and resources can be purchased
that describe various outdoor onsens available for use
by backpackers and hikers.
an Onsen is a part of the Japanese culture that the
westerner may want to experience, but there is some
etiquette that should be followed in the process. There
may be a small fee to enter the Onsen and usually some
soap and towels may be purchased if you dont have
your own. The onsen is a place of relaxation, and bathing
is not allowed in the actual pools. Before entering
the hot springs, you are expected to bathe. After washing
your body, you can enter the pools and lounge in the
inside the changing room, locate an empty locker in
the locker room and put your clothes inside. Head out
of the locker room and take a quick shower in the bathing
area. The shower is just a primer for a major washing
that follows. You can find a wash basin and small stool
provided that you carry to the hot and cold water spigots
and mini showers that line the wall of the washing room.
Using your wash basin, wash cloth, and soap, thoroughly
lather every square inch of your body. The process of
washing yourself is an important custom and may take
up to a half hour for some people to complete. After
washing yourself, rinse all of the soap off your body.
Once you are feeling squeaky clean, you are ready to
head out to the onsen.
you stay at an Onsen resort, or there are baths at a
ryokan you visit, there may be both an inside and outside
pools. The pool(s) may be built of natural stone or
could be constructed to appear as a small swimming pool.
Slowly step down into one of the hot pools of water
of the Japanese bath and prepare to steep. If you are
not used to hot water you may be surprised that the
temperature is more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40
degrees centigrade). Temperatures can vary from under
77 degrees Fahrenheit to over 108 degrees Fahrenheit.
There may be bubbling water from a Jacuzzi stream that
serves to further relax you. In some resorts, you may
be able to enjoy a bottle of fine sake (Japanese rice
wine) while relaxing in the bath.
some Onsens there will be a cold bath for you to take
a plunge into after soaking in the hot bath. This will
provide a giant shock to your senses and will refresh
your sense of vitality. If a cold bath is not available
a freezing cold shower will work just as well. After
your sensory overload in the cold you can slip back
into the hot bath. Repeat this process as often as you
may enjoy it.
people will find the Onsen is a wonderful way to relax
after a busy day in Japan.
story appeared in part for a story for Japan SnowSports@Dead.Net
by: W. Dire Wolff