Onsen - Japanese volcanic bath
A woman enjoying open air onsen in Hokkaido.
Onsen is Japanese hot spring or spa.
In onsen people enjoy hot mineral water which is channeled from volcanic soil. The water temperature is constantly monitored and kept somewhere between 42 to 45 degrees.
Onsen are usually found on mountains. Beppu is one of the most famous onsen towns in Japan, as well as Hakone, but there are also onsen in Hokkaido.
Onsen is the place where Japanese people relax after work or in weekends, and forget time.
Lying down in natural water, people don't bother their minds with work or materialistic issues, but let their body and spirit rest within the elements of the nature. Although saunas or massages or massage chairs are often provided, the real point is the volcanic water and the feeling close to the nature - and enjoyment of fresh fish meal sashimi after the onsen.
Women and men's side is usually separated, although there still are some mixed baths, especially in rural areas. Sometimes you might hear young couples calling each other's names from separate sides of the wall. "Are you ready to go for dinner?" they might ask. The wall in inside structure doesn't reach the ceiling so you can hear women's or men's voices.
Onsen-Ryokan is combination of an old Japanese style guest house ryokan, and rotenburo, an outdoor bath. These are very comfortable places for couples, since often a private bath is provided.
Onsen is remaining it's popularity even in today's busy and urban Japan. It seems that people even in metropolis sometimes have to have a retreat and enjoy the elements of nature.
There are also sento public bath houses in cities, but their water is plain water without minerals.
Generally its forbidden to enter onsen if you wear tattoo, since tattoo could be a sign of yakuza.
this leads me to another question that I wonder since ages...how does japanese people react in front of tatooed europeans, especially if their tatoos are in a "japanese style" way?
I suppose the more we going further in time and the more minds change about everything, it would be less considered as a yakusa sign than it was before, especially if the wearer isn't japanese at all, but I tend to see Japan as a strange mix between tradition and modernity...so as I'm flying to japan next summer, I wouldn't like to be set aside because of my love for skin art.
Could you tell me more about it please?
You are right, tattoos in Japan are associated with organized crime. For example street gang members "boozoozoku" used to have tattoos. Although it is not a sign of crime in Europe, Japanese, especially elderly people don't know it.
Therefore, tattoo it is still a problem especially among older people.
That's why I recommend to cover your tattoo if you go to onsen. Also I advice you not to show your tattoo in public.
If you want to go to onsen, it's no problem, you can use bandage. Adhesive bandage might work well too.
Japanese person's reaction on European wearing Japanese style tattoo?
For example kanji tattoo, you mean? Japanese person would think it's strange or hilarious. There are a lot of foreigners who have Chinese character kanji tattooed on their arm. Sometimes the meaning is "love", "samurai", "geisha", or "noodles". Or maybe "courage".
Japanese people don't usually wear such tattoo. Therefore I'm afraid they might feel strange about it.
However, don't worry too much. I'm sure your tattoo won't affect your experience in Japan if you are polite to them. Just don't worry too much, and enjoy Japan with full heart. And I'm sure you have a reason why you had that tattoo. So don't forget that reason and you'll be fine.
Although I'm a Westerner and most likely not a part of the aforementioned organized crime, I did want to show a modicum of respect for the baths in the hotel (though I didn't want to miss out altogether!). I doubt I was fooling anyone, but wanted to make the gesture regardless.
Yes, onsen is the place where should people relax after hard work, every day possble..and forget time for short time.
I just got a bath which I turn it in 'sento' daily..aaaaa
Thanks for this article