Natural hotsprings in Japan | Wellness Japan

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The world counts more than 7 billion people. Yet somehow, we all have to relax. Wellness Deluxe is intruiged by cultures and traditions worldwide, when it comes down to finding ways to unwind. For example, the Spanish love their well known siesta, in India most thrive on weekly – if not daily – mediations, where in China they use ancient techniques like acupunture to escape daily stress. In Japan, however, they have their Onsen. A relatively unknown tradition at which you can relax in a natural hot spring.

The strenght of Mother Earth

Traditionally, men and women bathed together at both onsens and sentōs, but gender separation has been enforced since the opening of Japan to the West during the Meiji Restoration. The practice had contributed at the time to Western ideas of the Japanese as an inferior race. Mixed bathing persists at some special onsen in rural areas of Japan, which usually also provide the option of separate “women-only” baths or different hours for the two sexes. Men may cover their genitals with a small towel while out of the water, while women usually wrap their bodies in full-size towels. Children of either sex may be seen in both the men’s and the women’s baths. In some prefectures of Japan, including Tokyo, where nude mixed bathing is banned, people are required to wear swimsuits or yugi (湯着 yugi), or yuami-gi, which are specifically designed for bathing.

No more tattoos please

By 2015, around half (56%) of onsen operators had banned bathers with tattoos from using their facilities. The original reason for the tattoo ban was to keep out Yakuza and members of other crime gangs who traditionally have elaborate full-body decoration.

However, tattoo-friendly onsen do exist. A 2015 study by the Japan National Tourism Organisation found that more than 30% of onsen operators at hotels and inns across the country will not turn someone with a tattoo away; another 13% said they would grant access to a tattooed guest under certain conditions, such as having the tattoo covered up. With the increase in foreign customers due to growing tourism, some onsens that previously banned tattoos are loosening their rules to allow guests with small tattoos to enter, provided they cover their tattoos with a patch or sticking plaster

Always make a clean entrance

At an onsen, all guests are expected to wash and rinse themselves thoroughly before entering the hot water. Bathing stations are equipped with stools, faucets, wooden buckets, and toiletries such as soap and shampoo; nearly all onsen also provide removable shower heads for bathing convenience. Entering the onsen while still dirty or with traces of soap on the body is socially unacceptable. Bathers are not normally allowed to wear swimsuits in the baths. However, some modern onsen with a water park atmosphere require their guests to wear a swimming suit in their mixed baths.

Our top 3 of Onsen in Japan:

Asamushi Onsen (浅虫温泉) is the site of a hot spring, on the eastern edge of the city of Aomori in Aomori Prefecture, Japan. It was developed as the downtown beside the onsen town and is sometimes known as “Atami in Tohoku” after the famous Atami Onsen in Shizuoka, central Japan.

Jigokudani Monkey Park (地獄谷野猿公苑 Jigokudani Yaen Kōen) is located in Yamanouchi, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. It is part of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park (locally known as Shigakogen), and is located in the valley of the Yokoyu-River, in the northern part of the prefecture. The name Jigokudani, meaning “Hell’s Valley”, is due to the steam and boiling water that bubbles out of small crevices in the frozen ground, surrounded by steep cliffs and formidably cold and hostile forests. It is famous for its large population of wild Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata), more commonly referred to as snow monkeys, that go to the valley during the winter, foraging elsewhere in the national park during the warmer months. The monkeys descend from the steep cliffs and forest to sit in the warm waters of the onsen (hotsprings), and return to the security of the forests in the evenings.

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Kusatsu is a town located in Gunma Prefecture, Japan. As of February 2015, the town had an estimated population of 6,537, and a population density of 131 persons per km². Its total area is 49.75 km². Kusatsu is one of the most famous hot springs resorts in Japan.

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