With all eyes on Japan for the Tokyo Olympic Games, there is no better time to discover the gold medal winner for the Japanese onsen experiences and start planning a visit, when borders reopen, for an exceptionally soothing experience.
With more than 4,418 thermal hot springs (onsen) and the largest volume of springwater in Japan, Oita Prefecture is regarded as Japan’s thermal springs capital, or gold medal winner in Olympic terms.
Known for their healing qualities, the thousands of onsen are peppered across Oita Prefecture – on the subtropical island of Kyushu in southwestern Japan. *swoon*.
This wondrous experience provides sublime relaxation and contemplation, but just like an Olympic race, your first time could be a little intimidating, so we’re here to put your mind at ease and shed some light on what you can expect.
All shapes and sizes
There is a huge variety of onsen to choose from in Oita, from the hot volcanic spring water onsen to the immersive black sand and mud baths.
Taking a dip in the outside baths or rotenburo, is considered the most authentic experience, and offers beautiful views of Oita’s verdant landscape.
How to enjoy bathing in an onsen
For onsen novices, the rules of play can seem a little daunting. The majority of onsen are single-sex and unless otherwise stated, nudity is expected.
You must shower yourself before bathing and be careful not to splash water or soap at others. Do not put your modesty towel in the water, your head under, long hair must be tied up, and never wash your hair or body while bathing.
The floor can be slippery so don’t run and once you are done soaking, use your modesty towel to wipe off excess water and sweat before entering the locker room.
Tattoos are also frowned upon, given their long-held association in Japan with organised crime gangs, however, more and more onsen now are accepting tattooed guests.
Go for gold!
Understanding the manners to enter an onsen will completely transform your experience; resulting in an exceptionally soothing Onsen adventure.
For centuries, the Japanese have travelled to onsen towns in the belief that the mixture of minerals in the water has a medicinal effect – and for (aspiring) Olympic athletes – a well-deserved experience to help soothe muscle pain and fatigue.
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