For a prude like myself the thought of bathing naked with a bunch of strangers terrifies me. An onsen is a traditional Japanese bathhouse where you can soak in hot spring waters. Due to its volcanic activity, Japan has dozen of onsen scattered around the country, some of which were established hundreds of years ago.
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The onsen experience has always been an essential part of visiting Japan — every prefecture or city, even has their share of these traditional hot spring bath houses, which both the locals and tourists enjoy. Two, no tattoos. In —the onsen scene took its baby steps with several hotel chains and bath houses allowing inked visitors.
Most are segragated by sex, so if your worry is the other gender seeing you, that will not be the case. Real onsens typically don't allow clothing. The ones that let you wear a swimsuit usually have a feel that is more like a waterpark or swimming pool than an onsen.
Japan has a bathing culture like wow. Going to onsen in Tokyo, or hot springs, is a rite of passage for every youngster, and kids are taught from an early age how to do public bathing appropriately, often by their grandparents. Getting starkers as a family is as natural in Japan as hopping into the shower. Believe it.
As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsens scattered throughout all of its major islands. Traditionally, onsens were located outdoors, although a large number of inns have now built indoor bathing facilities as well. The practice had contributed at the time to Western ideas of the Japanese as an inferior race.
Japan is proud of its bathing traditions. For many Westerners, though, the fact that these traditions involve being naked with strangers is awkward at best, even though men and women bathe separately. On my first trip I tried to wriggle out of a friend's offer to take me to an onsen, or hot springs resort. I suggested a different town that had an attraction I wanted to see, and thought I was off the hook.