This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page. Being naked in front of strangers is the stuff of nightmares for many people. But in Japan , being naked with strangers is part of the cultural experience of visiting a Japanese bath.
I was extremely self-conscious the first time I visited a Japanese bath. There are two types of Japanese baths: public bathhouses sento and hot-spring baths onsen. Go ahead and get comfortable with the idea of bathing naked with strangers.
You can partially cover yourself with a small towel while walking around the baths, but culture dictates that this towel should never touch the water. Most people will either wear the towel on their head or place it on the edge of the bath.
There are some baths where swimsuits are required in certain areas and prohibited in others. The hot springs at GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort are an example — there are gender-separated traditional bathing facilities where bathers must be naked, as well as a mixed-gender swimming pool and outdoor hot tub where bathing suits are required. The baths were a wonderful way to relax after a day on the slopes. This is because tattoos in Japan are associated with organized crime.
Out of the four baths I visited, three explicitly forbade tattoos and one had no obvious restrictions. Many baths will also provide nonessentials such as conditioner, razors, hair ties, face wash, makeup pads, combs and other items bathers might need after bathing. These items are often complimentary, but in some cases you may need to pay.
After that is a counter to pay your entrance fee, or two curtained areas if there is no entrance fee. Try to learn the kanji symbol for your gender, but you can also usually rely on the male curtain being blue and the female curtain being red. If you use a locker, the key will likely be attached to a wristband so you can take the key with you in the bath.
Showers are usually all located in an open room, potentially with small partitions between each. Washing while standing is considered rude, so sit on the provided stool while you shower.
Avoid spraying water on others. In some locations, the baths are in the same room as the showers. This was the case at both hotel baths I visited. At larger locations, the baths may be spread across multiple rooms, or some may be inside while others are outside. Even if others are in the bath, feel free to enter as long as there is space to sit. You can sit on the edge of the bath or in the bath. Enter carefully to avoid splashing any other bathers. Once in the bath, relax. If there are multiple baths, feel free to move from one bath to another.
Once done bathing, dry off with your small towel before entering the changing room. Be careful to not overheat while bathing. If you become lightheaded, sit outside the bath for a while or move to a cooler bath.
Some baths have water chairs that are perfect for cooling down. In my eight baths at four different locations, I was always the only Western guest. This alone called for second looks. Although my fellow female bathers were generally polite enough to not stare, my husband said the men tended to stare at him. From our experience, Japanese tend not to shave their pubic hair.
So, keep that in mind if you want to stand out less. Two baths I visited had explicit signs prohibiting bathing while menstruating. I saw many children, both male and female, bathing with their female relatives.
Each facility seems to have different rules about how old or all kids have to be to stick to the side for their gender. All of the children I saw were well-behaved, although they did tend to stare more than their older relatives. Many baths have saunas, rest areas, massage chairs and a vending machine for snacks and drinks. Some even offer massage services, restaurants and overnight accommodation.
One budget way to stay overnight in Japan is to sleep in a reclining chair or tatami rest room at bathhouse that is open all night. You can find baths in many places: public bathhouses, in lodging and in the wild. Baths at lodgings range drastically in terms of quality and size, and can be found at budget-friendly capsule hotels to posh ryokans. Public bathhouses can be found in most neighborhoods in Japan. Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser.
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This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information. Skip to content. Maximize your travel. Advertiser Disclosure. Katie Genter. Complimentary amenities at First Cabin Nihonbashi Yokoyama-cho. Store your shoes in this area. Shower and bath at First Cabin Nihonbashi Yokoyama-cho. Baths Are for Relaxing and Contemplation In some locations, the baths are in the same room as the showers.
Different pools may have different temperatures. Listen to Your Body Be careful to not overheat while bathing. Children Are Welcome I saw many children, both male and female, bathing with their female relatives. There Is Often More than Just Bathing Many baths have saunas, rest areas, massage chairs and a vending machine for snacks and drinks.
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Katie Genter is a location independent digital nomad who has traveled full-time since June Her focus at TPG is credit card benefits. How to prepare for buying a home. Southwest Airlines has big plans for its new gates in Denver.