Japan’s Onsens

History

Japan is well known as the key hot spring country in the world. Since it is a country located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, it is no surprise that many hot springs exist! Hot springs have been enjoyed by many for centuries. Originally beginning as health spas, they are now some of the most popular tourist attractions as well. There are 2,983 hot spring towns across the country, as well as 27,297 hot spring locations. An onsen is a Japanese hot spring with a water temperature ranging from 40 degrees celsius to 60 degrees celsius. 

In Japan’s oldest history book dating from 700 AD,  hot springs have been a major part of Japanese culture over the centuries. But onsens were not always accessible to all. They were considered a luxury and a health resort that the nobility and warrior classes frequented. It wasn’t until later that common people could use these baths. Now, it is seen as a fun and relaxing way to decompress from the busy city life. 

One important aspect of the Japanese onsen experience is the etiquette involved. No swimming or running, it is regarded as a relaxing, calming environment. People maintain the calm environment that is needed to properly enjoy the bath, since people don’t like to be bothered. Also, many hot spring places do not accept people with tattoos, due to the perceptions and reputation that tattoos have in Japan. There is still a big gap between how tattoos are received overseas and in Japan. However, there are also many onsens who do accept those who have tattoos and it is important to take note of that before planning a trip if it does apply to you.

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