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Onsen etiquette 2019/8/11 06:28
Hi
Been visting several onsen during my past trip in Japan and been wondering about things. One onsen mentioned you should not shower after use since it would wear off the onsen health effect. I see people showering and even cleaning themselves thoroughly afterwards.

Sometimes I wonder if they even cleaned themselves before entering...

I remember a middle age man who came from locket room and just entered the bath without shower. Felt a bit nasty. Is this common?
by Kwee (guest)  

Re: Onsen etiquette 2019/8/11 10:01
One onsen mentioned you should not shower after use since it would wear off the onsen health effect. I see people showering and even cleaning themselves thoroughly afterwards.

There are three main reasons why people shower after an onsen bath:

1) They are afraid that the water wasn't clean because it was shared with other people. Such a concern is very widespread in this hygiene-crazy age, but in some rare cases it can actually be justified, such as in cheap, badly maintained facilities that circulate the water (usually in places that have not historically been famous for onsen). But it should not be a concern in the large majority of well maintained baths and especially with baths that feature strongly acidic water.

2) They have sensitive skin. While it is recommended for the average bather to keep the minerals on the skin after an onsen bath, there are some people with sensitive skin that reacts badly on some minerals. Such people better rinse themselves after an onsen baths.

3) They are ignorant and don't know that the central purpose of taking an onsen bath is to dirty your body with the minerals from Mother Nature.

Sometimes I wonder if they even cleaned themselves before entering...

People who clean themselves after an onsen are likely to also clean themselves before an onsen. They tend to be the very hygiene-conscious people.

I remember a middle age man who came from locket room and just entered the bath without shower. Felt a bit nasty. Is this common?

Taking a shower before an onsen is not required (many traditional onsen don't even have showers), but not even rinsing one's body before entering an onsen is a very bad behavior. I visit dozens of onsen every year, but only encounter a couple of such sinners each year. Many of them are foreigners, but there are also Japanese people among them. They are either selfish or ignorant.
by Uji rate this post as useful

Re: Onsen etiquette 2019/8/11 15:23
Thank you Uji san for your reply.

I have been wondering about something. If someone noticed a bather entering the bath still soapy or never cleaned before entering the bath, do people react? Or just feel annoyed and leave? I suppose the water would turn quite dirty after that.

Still, as a foreigner I feel as if people are peering my movements or thinking I dont know the bathing routines..
by Kweeh (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Onsen etiquette 2019/8/12 11:55
If someone noticed a bather entering the bath still soapy or never cleaned before entering the bath, do people react? Or just feel annoyed and leave?

I have witnessed around a dozen people entering the bath without rinsing themselves. I myself and the people around me never raised their voice. Most people try to avoid conflicts, especially if they came to an onsen to relax, but there could naturally be exceptions. I have never seen anybody entering the water while still soapy.

I suppose the water would turn quite dirty after that.

I don't think so. The pools are usually quite large, and any "pollution" from a single person would quickly dilute into irrelevance, especially in well circulated baths.

Still, as a foreigner I feel as if people are peering my movements or thinking I dont know the bathing routines..

Most people don't care. But it is good to try to do it right.
by Uji rate this post as useful

Re: Onsen etiquette 2019/8/12 15:01
As I understand, a rinse (at least) before the bath is mandatory. My skin is quite sensitive so if in doubt I have a light rinse off at the end too. Or if I don't care for the smell of the water.

That said, I also have an onsen etiquette question.

Last year, while at an onsen in a small ryokan, a young woman brought her young baby-under 6 months-into the onsen. She undressed the baby completely, they both had the rinse, and then brought the baby into the bath with her. So far, so good.

She then breastfed the baby while soaking. As those of you who have breastfed will know, two things are likely/possible to happen while breastfeeding: first, a little breastmilk leaks, which I had no problem with, just as I have no problem with a bit of baby urine if baby happens to urinate. Second, baby defecates. This I have more of a problem with, since even a bit of baby poo is, well, poo. In the bath.

Over several years of holidays in Japan, and a number of babies in tubs, I never saw this before.

Is this considered okay?
by Who? (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Onsen etiquette 2019/8/12 15:33
As far as I know small babies in the pool are generally not ok. Some onsen provide a baby tub that you can fill with onsen water and the mother/father (?) soaks in the onsen while the baby is splashing in her/his private pool just outside.
Breastfeeding in the pool I can’t imagine that that’s acceptable. It sounds like you witnessed a pretty exceptional situation.
by LikeBike (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Onsen etiquette 2019/8/12 16:56
Thanks LikeBike. This little one had minimal head control, so far too young to be sitting anywhere, even under supervision.

The public baths often seem far hotter than a baby would find comfortable.

I've seen babies before with say Mum and Grandma or Auntie, one adult in the bath dipping baby in and out, murmuring about what a great time baby is having, with other adult on hand with small towel to take baby. After a while they swap positions in the bath. Also, in the first changeroom ie the dry one where you undress, there's often a crib for baby to be lying in while the adults prepare for their soak/shower.

I'm generally pretty relaxed about big bodies of water and little leaky bodies, but that was definitely not okay from my perspective. I didn't linger long!
by Who? (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Onsen etiquette 2019/8/13 18:01
It's been several years since I saw on TV or read somewhere that, nowadays, it's better to also rinse after you bath in an onsen tub. But searching the Internet, I notice that this is literally debatable. For example, the first of the links below tells you (under "4.Cautions after bathing") not to rinse unless you have skin problems and such. But the second link says (under 手順C かけ湯をして身体をタオルで拭く) that you should rinse, because (A) you just bathed in a tub where many strangers bathed and (B) because the rinse water would help you adjust to the air outside the bathing room.

https://www.spa.or.jp/en/caution_bathing/
https://blog.pokke.in/hot-spring-how-to-take/

As for those who immediately jump into the tub, the only reasons I could think of is that (A) they don't know their manners and (B) they're heavy-onsen-goers and decided to bath again after just having bathed. Oh, and (C) there is another tub outside that you didn't notice, and the bather is making a round.

Hope it helps.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Onsen etiquette 2019/8/14 13:39
I actually went to the "built in" warm bath in the top hotel floor today. Noticed several oss behaviours. Most people went straight from the dressing room into the bath. And outside is big signs telling in english you must rinse and shower first.

Feels kind of wierd. And a father and his maybe 2-3 year old girl whom I noticed later was wearing daipers got in the bath before me, neither showering.

Its like, I start to wonder why I ever bother doing that,when the residents dont even bother...
by Kwee (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Onsen etiquette 2019/8/14 18:15
two theories:
in very old onsen tradition, there was considered following process as best for your health: go very short time in the onsen until your body ajusts to the temperatur, then go out and start the cleaning process and then relax in the onsen for longer time.

basically only very old people use this process (and it looks to me that it is more used on remote islands, rural countrysides in west and south japan than on the "modern japan side" and tohoku)... nowadays people made new rulesets (e.g. adjust OUTSIDE of the onsen, clean before,...) but some old people still stick to the old process. never saw a young person doing it like that.


my other theory is usually if i see such a person, that he is probably doing onsen hopping, so maybe just came from another onsen. people get to tend to be annoyed doing the same "show-cleaning-process" over and over again, just when you switch onsen in an onsen town and was done 30 minutes ago.

or if that happens in a hotel, they probably used their room shower to clean themselves, put them in a yukatta and then decided to check out the hotel onsen before sleep.

in any case, i think all is not really a serious problem to health for your body, even if babies are pissing into the onsen. the body survives much dirtier water (ever swam in some holy indian river for example? :-) ) - it is more a matter of mind.
by Glimpigumpi rate this post as useful

Re: Onsen etiquette 2019/8/14 18:55
Kwee,

The baby still in the diaper age … that is a completely no-no. Locals or what, noone’s supposed to do that. Maybe the dad didn’t know good manners, or thought it would be OK if he came in when there aren’t many other people in the bath area… There are ignorant or blatantly rude (in terms of manners in public) people here too of course.

I’ve heard of a relatively young woman just proceeding from the dressing area straight to the common tub (it was a local bathhouse) with a bath towel around her and her long hair dipping in, and the ladies – all neighbors – swarmed to tell her how to take a bath in a public place…
by AK rate this post as useful

Re: Onsen etiquette 2019/8/14 22:41
I have seen people (Japanese and foreigners) jump straight into the tub without rinsing/washing first. I can only assume and hope that they are clean because just bathed not long ago. Some people who go to onsen ryokan just repeat eat-drink-bathe cycle.
by yabaissu (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Onsen etiquette 2019/8/15 04:44
basically only very old people use this process

I also observe this "generation gap". I observe that people in their 50s and above tend to follow the traditional approach while people in their 40s and below don't.
by Uji rate this post as useful

Re: Onsen etiquette 2019/8/15 16:10
I even found in an onsen once this "how to"-manual with the old approach. sadly i didnt take a picture so i could show it for the details.

but summed up, there was written, that in order to get the skin particles more open and to make the skin more soft for the cleaning process, it is recommended that FIRST go for a short time into the onsen, wait until skin is warmer and softer and then AFTERWARDS do the cleaning, cause it will be more effective then.

maybe that is also a reason why a lot of people do the cleaning (additionally) also afterwards. the skin can be peeled off much better than before being in the onsen.

and of course over time, a lot of different mixtures between onsen processes are developed.

anyhow, as a gaijin i recommend to do the cleaning before, just in order to be on the save side and not to offend anyone in any case.
by Glimpigumpi rate this post as useful

Re: Onsen etiquette 2019/8/15 20:53
I don't mean to deny anyone's experience, but I often go to public onsen facilities in near-Tokyo resorts, and I don't really notice people with bad manners. I even recently saw about a dozen girls who seemed to be average college students, and they were rinsing properly. I see kids but never with diapers.

I wonder if the people not following manners were non-Japanese Asians who couldn't read Japanese or English. Or maybe certain facilities tend to attract ill-mannered people more than others. That said, people now in their 50s and older grew up when it was more common to go to "sento" public baths, because many people lived in housing that didn't have bathing rooms, while the younger generation could have gotten away with not using public baths at all.

it is recommended that FIRST go for a short time into the onsen, wait until skin is warmer and softer and then AFTERWARDS do the cleaning, cause it will be more effective then.

I think the sign just didn't bother to mention, "rinse your behind and dirty parts before doing your first dip" and also "after cleaning, dip again for comfort" because people used to take it for granted.
by Uco rate this post as useful

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