The Insider’s Guide to Visiting an Onsen in Japan: Part 2


onsen manners 2

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at some common misconceptions about onsen in Japan. Now, in Part 2, we offer step-by-step instructions to the fun part: actually visiting one! Just follow the steps below, and you’ll be fine.


1. Get undressed. No swimsuits!
The only things you should take into the onsen are your tenugui (hand towel) and locker key.

2. Wash yourself. Kakeyu, kakariyu!
This step is known as both kakeyu and kakariyu in Japanese, but they both mean the same thing: washing your body off with hot water. Everyone soaks in the onsen together, so it’s good manners to make sure you’re clean before you get in too.

3. Step into the onsen. Only your body!
Be careful not to let your towel fall into the water—it should stay above the waterline. The same goes for your hair; if you have long hair, put it up before you enter the water.

4. Wash your hair and body. Don’t splash anyone!
Get out of the onsen and return to the shower area to wash your hair and body again. Some people use the shower heads, others dowse themselves with a basin of hot water, but either way, make sure to check that you aren’t splashing anyone nearby. And, of course, if you use the shampoo or soap provided, be sure to put it back in the same place.

5. Step back into the onsen. Relax!
From this point on, you can stay in the onsen and unwind for as long as you like. Just make sure you don’t get dizzy from the heat.

6. Dry yourself off. Back to the real world!
Some people like to shower after they leave the onsen, but this is up to you. In any case, before you leave the bathing area, make sure to dry yourself off lightly with the towel. Going back into the changing area still dripping can cause accidents.

7. Get dressed again. Be considerate of the next person!
Get dressed again, dry your hair, and you’re ready to go. Make sure that you don’t leave a mess behind you at the washbasin! Taking just a little care makes the onsen experience a lot better for everyone.

“What?” I hear you say. “I have to follow all these rules just to relax?” Don’t worry! The first time is the hardest. After that, it’ll start coming to you naturally, and before you know it you’ll be an onsen master. The key is being considerate of others—everything else follows from that.

Ready to try out these tips? These series at Curation Japan might be of interest to you too!

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Happy bathing!


Writing: A-nya.PoPo
Assistance: Chiulan Wei, Chen Xu

Photos: Some rights reserved by David McKelvey (Kurokawa, Onsen, Minamioguni, Kumamoto, Kyushu, Japan)


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