One of the most distinct parts of Japanese Culture are Onsens or hot spring baths. If you’re visiting Japan, you should make time to try this tourist and cultural attraction.
Japan sits in the Pacific Ring of Fire. While this may cause more volcanic eruptions and earthquakes than normal, there’s one positive thing about this unique tectonic placement — the formation of countless natural hot springs.
Bathing in a Japanese Onsen is an experience you shouldn’t miss. This ritual done in a geothermal bath has a huge draw among locals and foreigners. To make Onsen hunting easier for you, we’ve narrowed down our top picks.
Before you visit an Onsen, you should observe proper etiquette. First, remove all your clothes in the designated changing area. Bathing is a mandatory prerequisite, most use a towel to cover their bodies in the common area, some establishment also offers kimono type cover-ups. Don’t worry, the bathing area for men and women are separate. On rare co-ed onsens, cover-ups are allowed.
Also, check if the onsen allows tattoos. Because tattoos used to be a sign of illegal affiliations in Japan, many onsens do not allow it. It is recommended to cover small tattoos with bandages. Menstruating women are also not permitted in onsens.
Our Top Picks
Here are some of our favorite Onsens in Japan.
Kusatsu Onsen, Gunma Prefecture
One of the most popular hot spring resorts in the country, the Kusatsu Onsen boasts high-quality hot spring water which is believed to cure all illnesses, except a broken heart. This particular hot spring rose to fame after it was recommended by German doctor Erwin von Baelz in the late 1800s for its countless health benefits.
This attraction is situated more than 1,000 meters above sea level. After you’re done bathing here, you can try other activities such as hiking and bathing.