A cute anime girl taking a bath in a japanese onsen with a scenic view to the surrounding nature.

Japanese Onsen (Hot Springs) History, Culture, and Etiquette


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“Onsen” refers to natural hot springs found throughout Japan, which have been used for relaxation and therapeutic purposes for centuries. Japanese onsen culture is a significant part of Japanese life, a traditional practice that dates back to ancient times. In this article, we will delve into the history, popularity, etiquette, how to try onsen, and what to know before you go.

History of Onsen Culture in Japan:
Onsen culture in Japan dates back to ancient times when people bathe in natural hot springs to improve their health and well-being. The first recorded instance of onsen culture dates back to the 8th century when a Buddhist monk discovered a hot spring in Dogo Onsen, located on the island of Shikoku. From there, onsen culture became more popular as people began to understand the therapeutic benefits of hot springs.
From 1603 to 1868, onsen culture became more mainstream during the Edo period, and many hot spring resorts were established. Onsen resorts were particularly popular among the samurai class, who would visit onsen resorts to unwind and relax after battles.
Today, onsen culture is still prevalent in Japan, and many people visit onsen resorts to experience the relaxing and therapeutic benefits of natural hot springs.

Why Onsen are Popular:
Onsen are popular in Japan because they provide a unique and relaxing therapeutic and cultural experience. The natural hot springs are believed to have health benefits, such as soothing muscle aches and improving blood circulation. Additionally, the onsen provide a unique opportunity to connect with nature, as many resorts are in scenic areas with beautiful views.

Onsen Etiquette:
There are specific etiquette rules to follow when visiting an onsen in Japan. Here are a few of the most important rules to keep in mind:
Before entering the onsen, it is customary to shower and wash your body thoroughly to ensure that the water in the onsen stays clean.
Tattoos are generally not allowed in the onsen, as they are associated with organized crime in Japan. If you have tattoos, checking with the onsen before visiting is best.
It is important to respect others’ privacy while in the onsen. It is customary to keep quiet and avoid splashing or making any disruptive noise.
It is also important to avoid bringing any food or drinks into the onsen.

How to Try Onsen:
Trying onsen in Japan is relatively easy, and there are many onsen resorts throughout the country. Here are a few tips for trying onsen:
Research different onsen resorts and choose one that fits your preferences. Some onsen resorts are more traditional and rustic, while others are more modern and luxurious.
Bring a towel with you to the onsen. It is customary to bring a small towel with you to dry off after getting out of the onsen. However, this towel should not be brought into the onsen water.
Relax and enjoy the experience. Onsen is all about relaxation and enjoying the therapeutic benefits of natural hot springs.

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