Ski Trip?? or was it an Onsen trip?? :) I think we showered once in 3 weeks! None of the places we stayed even had showers:) Its all about the onsen in Japan...our next house remodel is going to be an onsen:) They are great and the whole tradition surrounding them is oh so enjoyable. We visited 10 different onsen, most being male and female segregated, Kristin did finally come across a mixed onsen near the conclusion of our trip:) So what is the onsen....
Onsen is a Japanese bathhouse built around and sourced by water originating from a local hot spring. Traditionally, bathhouses are public venues accessible to most townspeople and city dwellers, but modern tourism has brought the onsen to ryokans and luxury hotels. The attraction of natural minerals and its benefits for the skin and overall health have made onsen very popular. Travelers familiar with the Japanese culture of modesty may find themselves surprised by the onsen practice as it involves a degree of public nudity.
1) PAY AND ENTER (NO SHOES) - Depending on the size of the establishment, you might be greeted by a female staff member or a vending machine where you can pay admission. Onsen with lockers will provide a bracelet key which you can keep as you bathe. Others will provide a basket for your things. Look for the nearby shoe rack and change out of your shoes into slippers (a standard for any traditional Japanese space). Females enter through a red curtain marked by 女 and males through a blue curtain marked 男.
1) EMBRACE NUDITY – If you’re going to have an authentic onsen experience, you’re going to have to hurl your modesty out the condensation clouded window. Leave the swimsuits at home.. Don’t worry though, everybody else will be naked too. In fact, Hadaka no Tsukiai means “naked communication” in Japanese, in every sense of the word. Onsen is a popular activity with families, colleagues and friends alike, and represents an area of sheer relaxation where communication can be free and easy. So bare all and get chatting!
2) CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN – Before that though, you’ll be needing a proper good scrub down. Keep in mind that onsen are never for washing, but for leisure and healing, so refrain from a cannonball entrance caked in a layer of sweat from the days tour. Most onsens have rows of individual showers and buckets, where one can squat down and thoroughly cleanse the hair and body. You’re almost ready to submerge!
3) TALK OF THE TOWEL – Most onsen will provide you with a petit ‘modesty towel’ for covering your essentials on the way in and out of the healing pool and cleaning yourself when showering. Never dunk this in the water! It’s associated with cleaning the body and thus polluted. Instead, place it at the side of the water, or if it takes your fancy, you can fold it up and balance it delicately on top of your head.
4) ENJOY - Once you ease into the onsen (making sure not to jump, dive or cannonball in) you’ll feel brand new levels of relaxation. This is the time to contemplate life, ponder your next days tour plans and let your troubles melt away into the sacred waters. You’ll notice the color of the water to be varying shades of yellow, green, brown and red. These are due to the naturally-occurring minerals at the onsen. The water can be extremely hot, up to 100+ degrees F! To avoid shocking your body, do hanshin-yoku and submerge just the lower half of your body up to your waist. When sweat beads have appeared on your forehead, then try zenshin-yoku and submerge up to your shoulders.
5) COOL DOWN - After exiting the pool, do not rinse off your body again or you’ll wash away the healthful minerals. If you feel the need to cool off, rinse below your knees only. Dry yourself thoroughly before re-entering the locker room.