|Above, filling up our room's outdoor bath. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
Visiting an onsen has been a long tradition (or custom) in Japan and has gained popularity among foreign visitors to Japan.
“Did you do that Japanese bath thing?” is the question often asked while discussing holidays in Japan. YES! After visiting four spa towns in Japan, each a different experience, I love it! Out of interest, I surveyed a few friends and family, aged roughly between 30 to 75 years, who recently visited Japan. Of the 15 people who answered the survey (small sample so not statistically reliable) two-thirds visited onsens, quite a large percentage. The 33% who had not were on their first visit to Japan, and for some of them visiting an onsen did not even cross their minds. Others were just too shy.
|Above, a women's outdoor bath on the rooftop of an Atami ryokan. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
One more snippet: What's an onsen?
An onsen is a Japanese hot spring with bathing facilities. Because Japan has geothermal activity in nearly every region, it has numerous onsens, traditionally used as public baths. Many rural towns still have public baths located around their squares.
What’s quite confusing for foreigners is that spa towns are also called onsens. For example Yamanaka Onsen, or Sounkyo Onsen. They are hot spring resort towns.
There are many types of baths. If located outdoors, an onsen is called roten-buro. Large hotels may have several themed indoor baths, and tubs of varying temperatures. All onsens feature water from geothermal springs, some mixed with tap water. The water has iron, sulfer or other mineral content.
Public baths however merely have heated tap water, and are not considered onsens.
|Above, a men's outdoor bath at an Atami ryokan. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
Atami is one such town with geothermal activity. It is about an hour's ride on the shinkansen from Tokyo. Last year, we stayed at a ryokan (Japanese inn), the Atami Shin Kado Ya, that has public indoor and outdoor baths. Their rooms also had an outdoor bath. We made use of ours during our stay.
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