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Goin’ Japanesque!

14 Must-Know Rules of Etiquette for Onsen Hot Springs in Japan

People often say “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”, however it is one thing to say it in words but quite another to follow the culture in a foreign country.

This time I will introduce etiquettes to be observed when people go to onsen hot springs, one of the unique aspects of Japanese culture. Don’t skip this if you are thinking about trying onsen during your next trip to Japan.

 

1. Whether You Can Enter if You Have Tattoos

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Photo by flickr

Perhaps because tattoos have been strongly associated with yakuza gangsters since the old days, not a few onsen facilities in Japan decline admission of people with tattoos, stating that they are afraid of making other customers feel uncomfortable and so on. Tattoos may be common in Western countries, however unfortunately Japanese people are not yet open-minded about them.

Please confirm in advance if an onsen facility you are planning to visit is OK with tattoos.

 

2. Cover Your Clothes so that They Are Not Openly Visible

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Photo by flickr

In general we put undressed clothes into a basket or shelf. Some people leave their clothes and underwear in a messy state and leave them exposed. From other people’s perspectives, it is not a pleasant view.

Let’s fold our clothes neatly, and cover it with a bath towel.

 

3. Avoid Using a Cell phone

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Photo by flickr

Nowadays almost all cell phones come with a camera feature. A bath facility is something that everyone uses naked, thus taking photos is not acceptable no matter how nice and traditional the facility may look.

Even when you use a cell phone without violating the rule, there is a chance that you might be mistaken for being guilty of voyeurism. Please refrain from using it.

 

4. Wash Your Body First before Entering the Tub

The hot tub is communal, thus we all like to keep it clean. Therefore it goes without saying that we should not enter it when our body is not cleansed.

Let us wash our bodies clean before entering the tub.

 

5. Carry around Your Towel and Belongings, and Don’t Use Them to Reserve Spaces

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Photo by flickr

Let’s carry around our personal belongings always. (If the bath area is equipped with luggage space, we can put it there.) No matter how crowded the facility is, we shouldn’t put our belongings on a pail or chair in front of a shower to claim the space.

Let’s use seats in an orderly manner and be mutually considerate to others.

 

6. Bundle Your Hair Neatly so that It Doesn’t Fall into the Tub Water

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Photo by flickr

When hair dips into the hot water, it is unsanitary and it doesn’t look good either.

If your hair is long, please bundle it up with a hair band before entering the tub.

 

7. Do Not Put Your Towel into the Hot Tub

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Photo by flickr

When we enter the tub, we should not take towels into it.

We can fold it and put it either on the side of the tub or on our head and avoid putting it into the tub.

 

8. Don’t Swim or Play around

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Photo by flickr

I know I am repeating myself but onsen is a place people share together. If you swim or play around, I’m sure you would agree it would be a nuisance to other people.

The proper etiquette in onsen is to soak in the hot tub quietly.

 

9. Pay Attention to People Next to You or Behind You When You Use the Shower

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Photo by flickr

In most cases with bathing facilities people use showers side by side. You don’t like water or foam splashed on you by people around you washing their bodies, do you?

Let us be careful when we are washing our bodies lest our water and foam should fly to people next to us or behind us.

 

10. Make Sure Your Hair and Foam Is Not Left Behind and Put the Chair and Pail Neatly

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Photo by flickr

It is the cardinal rule to put things back to the original state after we finish using the shower. Are there any bubbles or fallen hair left behind?

Let’s make sure, rinse the chair and pail we used, and put them back to the original place.

 

11. Rinse Your Body before You Exit

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Photo by flickr

Once we get out of onsen, let’s rinse our body once with hot water from the shower. Some onsen have water that is strongly acidic which may give you skin irritation if it is not rinsed off. .

Most facilities have hot water prepared near the exit and we can rinse our bodies there.

 

12. Wipe Your Body Well Using Towel and Bath Mat

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Photo by flickr

If we make the floor soaking wet, it may wet other people’s socks and clothes of those around us.

Let us dry our bodies thoroughly with towels and remove water on the soles of our feet on the bath mat then go back to the dressing area.

 

13. Make Sure Fallen Hair Is Not Left after Using a Hair Dryer

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Photo by flickr

After using a hair dryer, let’s make sure fallen hair is not left on the floor so that the next person can use the area comfortably.

 

14. Did You Remove Everything from Your Basket?

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Photo by flickr

Finally once we dress and put our belongings together, let us examine the shelf and basket we used one more time to make sure nothing is left forgotten before we go out.

 

That’s all and how did you find it? You feel there are too many things to heed and it’s too much?

There are many elements in the manners but only one point after all and it is to be considerate to others. Onsen is a common space for people to use, and caring for people around us and those who use the place later is important. So long as we keep this principle in mind, we should have no trouble keeping good manners naturally.

Please experience Japanese onsen and have a good time following the rules of etiquette!

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