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How to Use a Japanese Hot Spring

October 9, 2017

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Hello everyone!

So, this is good news. More onsens are starting to allow people with tattoos in. Not all of them, mind you, but the progress is happening. One of the onsens we went to last year when we visited Aizu Wakamatsu has now opened their waters to people with tats, and so they invited us up there to shoot a video. Which, I think, isn’t really common. You can’t bring cameras into onsens, mainly because of all the nakedness, but we were able to have the entire place to ourselves, so that nobody would be uncomfortable with us shooting. Yay!

I’m actually starting to dig the idea of bathing. And that’s a sentence that I don’t know how to better phrase. I shower daily, but I don’t often take baths. It feels like overkill. I mean, I’m clean after a shower, so I should probably GTFO and get on with my day, but the importance of bathing here in Japan is kind of inspiring. From what we were told, a lot of people take a bath after their shower at the end of the night so that they can have that little bit of time to themselves to think. Just soak in the water, and have your own time to meditate, to unwind, to relax. We – the two of us here – don’t do that enough. I’m writing this blog post after midnight and I know I should be using this time to unwind and get ready for bed, but we’re just very busy bodied people. Today, however, after I took my shower after my workout, I ran the bath, and I sat in it for a few minutes, just to sit, soak, and think to myself. I should do it more often. I didn’t think about it much until we started researching things we wanted to say for this video.

The decision to bathe daily wouldn’t be a tough one to make if we lived at this Onsen. Holy sweet Jesus was this ever freaking beautiful. Sitting in an onsen outside, with the hot water on your body and the cool air on your neck and face, while you listen to the white noise of the waterfall in front of you…it’s just gorgeous. I know this is something I’ll sorely miss when we move out of Japan one day. When I was at Harataki Onsen I went twice in one day, which I’m not sure if it’s common or not. I would have gone more but it’s so exhausting being in hot water like that, which sounds to me like such a first world complaint. OH BOOH HOO I’M SLEEPY FROM SITTING IN AN ONSEN IN JAPAN. I’m not trying to say that. Just trying to say I’d have gone in the waters more if sitting in hot waters wasn’t draining.

I have a friend who is, as he calls it, an Onsen Otaku. He’s a really cool dude with an amazing Instagram account. His name is Yohei and he lives in a van that he gutted and remodelled, and he drives around Japan eating the freshest food when it is in season in the region that it comes from, and he goes to Onsens all the time. Some Onsen Otaku, from what I’ve learned, know the ph levels of the waters, the mineral composition, the temperature, and a bunch of other details I couldn’t bother to know. He actually went to some Onsens up in Hokkaido where they’re really remote, and you need bear spray just to be safe. Safe from bears, if that wasn’t clear. Safe from freaking bears. And he goes! His pictures are absolutely amazing, but juuuuuust not worth it for me. I like taking pictures but not if bears are closeby. Sorry homies. That’s a bit too intense for me.

If you’d like to check out a beautiful onsen without the fear of being mauled by bears, go to Harataki Onsen. The address is 235 Higashiyama Yumoto, Aizu Wakamatsu-shi, Fukushima Prefecture 965-0814. It’s just gorgeous, really. Sitting in an outdoor onsen by the waterfall – I don’t think I’ve had many profound experiences like that. It’s…special. Check out the website linked above for some really gorgeous pictures. I’ve never been to an onsen in the wintertime, but gaaawwwwdd I can imagine how gorgeous this would be with all the snow around you.

If you’d like to try out the Kawadoko that we showed at the end of the video, it’s not open all year round, because when it’s cold, it’s too cold up there. Ha! Lunch runs from end of April to end of October, so you still have time! Dinner runs from end of April to end of September, so that window has closed now, but it’ll be open again next year, for sure.

And for a few extra scenes, we’ve got em below!

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How to Use a Japanese Hot Spring

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  1. Thanks for all the information. I’m a Nasty from Chile and I’ll go to Japan at the end of December with a friend (we will attend two concerts of our ultimate favorite band BUCK-TICK, they’re celebrating their 30th anniversary and we couldn’t be out of it), and we want to go to an onsen, but she has tattoos. Are there any other onsen that you know in Kyoto or Nikko that allow people with tattoos?
    We’ll be in Tokyo for some days, I reaaaally hope I will be able to see you around :)

    2 months ago
  2. The Japanese have the right idea about the benefits of an onsen. Notice that a lot of elderly citizens don’t seem to have as many outwardly arthritic hinderences as many of us in the states do. Osteoarthritis pain is a very-real part of my life right now, and I’d happily give an onsen a regular visit if there was one close to my location.

    2 months ago
  3. This was a fantastic video! Martina, where is your yukata and obi that you wore to the kawadoko from?

    2 months ago
  4. I forgot to mention this in my first post, but Simon, semicolons are how you connect two related ideas in a sentence without using a conjunction like and; it helps whatever you’re writing to flow better. See what I did there? :D
    I can’t help you with baby pigeons though…

    2 months ago
  5. Hay guys! So my girlfriend and I are heading to Japan in nov/dec, at one point we are staying in fujiyoshida and our hotel has an onsen! One problem, Im a fairly hairy guy, is it still ok for me to use the onsen? I would never want to offend anyone, and I want to respect the locals and traditions as much as possible!
    Awesome video by the way!

    2 months ago
  6. Are you allowed to bring a water bottle with you in the onsen? I get dizzy sometimes in hot tubs in the U.S. and I like to always have a water bottle with me.

    2 months ago
    • For sure! Most onsens provide a big water tank outside in the change room because it is encouraged to drink lots of water. I would just make sure you keep the bottle out of the water and off to the side, but I’m sure you were already going to do that! You don’t want hot bottled water..haha!

      2 months ago
  7. Head band!! Where can I get one, it is super mega cute!!

    2 months ago
  8. This place looks amaaaaaaaaazing! Apparently there is an Onsen in Gunma that openly welcomes tattoos, my sister and friends are off to visit it along with the Daruma shrine.

    2 months ago
  9. BAAAAHAHAHAHHAHA I have had the same exact thought as Simon about the semi colon. Fun fact: one of my English teachers in high school knew that she found her future husband when he used a semi colon correctly.

    2 months ago
  10. I’ve always been apprehensive about going but you guys are wearing me down! I love the “01homeless” instagram. He seems to really just enjoy life. And you can’t beat the food and onsen pics and videos. But you forgot another bonus feature: karaoke driving!

    2 months ago
  11. This onsen looks amazing and it’s great that they’re starting to allow tattoos. The whole experience seems really relaxing and I am definitely adding it to my list of onsens. It’s a little saddening that they didn’t have co-ed baths (that I can tell) but it still would be a great experience to truly just relax.

    I would also highly recommend Simon and Martina to visit Takaragawa Onsen in the Minagami prefecture (in the winter with the snow) as it’s absolutely beautiful and I think they’d love the experience as well!

    2 months ago
  12. I just remembered: we shot a video of the waterfall when we were there last year. If you need something calm in the background, you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Dxp9xZr9q4

    2 months ago
  13. Oh. My god. That all looks so amazing. I’m dead set on going there some day. I’m really glad to hear that they’re big on keeping everything sanitized. The idea of being in the same water as a bunch of other naked people has always been gross to me, but I think I’ll stop being such a weiner and try it.

    I do have one question though… tattoos are okay there, but are stretched ears? They’re not impossible to hide, but mine are 3/4″ or 19mm and are definitely more noticeable than smaller sizes.

    2 months ago