Japanese onsen etiquette: 8 rules to know

Japanese onsen etiquette: 8 rules to know

A steamy affair

Text: Denise Kok

How to ace the onsen experience like a pro

You might be able to head into a Finnish sauna while sporting tattoos you regrettably inked during your younger (and wilder) days, but you'll be politely shown the door if you front up at a Japanese onsen with those very same tattoos. For the uninitiated, Japanese onsen etiquette can be fairly overwhelming, but our friends over at Kiroro Ski Resort have dispensed a few tips on how to wing it like a pro. 

1. Leave your swimwear at the door

Only birthday suits are allowed, and no, that little towel they give you will not cover your bits. 

2. Tie up your tresses

Ladies/gents with long hair should tie it up to ensure that it doesn't dip into the water. This prevents the water from being contaminated by dirt or chemicals from hair products.

3. Don't whip out your phone to take a photo

Selfies count, too. Photography and videography is strictly prohibited. 

4. Do not add cold water into the onsen

If the water is too hot for you, simply head to the shower for a cold rinse before returning. Don't attempt to moderate the water temperature by adding a splash of cold water. The water in an onsen contains its own unique mix of naturally-occurring minerals. 

onsen japan
5. Dry your body before entering the locker room

The bath towels are there for a reason. If everyone respects this rule, the floor can be kept clean and dry. 

6. Don't drop your towel into the tub

Don't place it on the side of the tub either. Do like the pros and balance it on your head.

7. Refrain from consuming alcohol prior to your onsen session

As the average temperature of the onsen hovers at 42 degrees Celsius, having alcohol in your system increases the chances of thrombosis or drowning. 

8. Tattoos are forbidden

The Japanese regard people sporting tattoos to be associated with the yakuza, Japan's transnational organised crime syndicate. If you have any tattoos on you, you won't be able to enter any public baths. However, you can still check into private-use hot spring baths and guest rooms with private open-air baths.

Ready to hit the onsen?

Consider heading to Kiroro Onsen, which offers both indoor and outdoor thermal baths filled with mineral-rich waters that can help to treat ailments such as muscular discomfort, exhaustion, or nerve pains.  

kiroro onsen resort