We know that some of you feel awkward bathing yourself in a bathtub with strangers 100% naked. Too shy, maybe. Or you might say that you are too civilized to show yourself without a stitch of clothing. In fact, it is authorized to take your small towel with you to cover where you want to!
Joking aside, it would be a matter of habituation and it will not be a hard thing to do once you get used to it.
We fully understand it because we didn’t like to take a public bath even though many people told us how good it was. We were too shy and we thought everybody would watch us if we walked into a bath naked. But one day we found that it was totally our ‘persecution complex’ and all the people were busy with their own business and nobody was interested at nude models with a high self-esteem like us….
Now we can tell you that we love hot springs. If you hesitate to take a good opportunity to put this great Japanese culture in practice you may not know what you’re missing.
In Japan there are many hot springs because there are many volcanic mountains. Even though they bring big disasters such as earthquakes, across the generations, we have been living with them maybe because we know their bright side, the great hot springs!
We would strongly recommend you to soak yourself in a hot spring while you are in Japan which is one of the best things to do in Japan and for you to enjoy fully, we will write down some advice including tips and manners that you ought know.
When to take a bath
- Best to take a bath when your stomach is neither empty or full.
- DON’T take a bath when you are drunk. Taking a bath will elevate your blood pressure. It’s better to wait about 2 hours after drinking.
- If you are sick, even it is a cold, better not to take a bath. The symptoms may get worse due to spa-water component.
What to bring to spa
There are several types in spa and things to take with you vary;
Type 1. You have to buy towels.
Type 2. You can rent towels (with fee)
Type 3. The fee of towels are included in the entrance fee.
So it is better to check beforehand which type of spa you are going to. Generally speaking, a big modern type spa facility is ‘Type 3’ and the old, classical, traditional type belongs to ‘Type 1’ or ‘2’. It’s always better to take your own big bath towel and a small towel (face towel) with you.
Soap and shampoo
Complimentary soaps and shampoos are always in any spa (at least, we have never been at a loss for them!)
Normally basic cosmetics such as skin lotions are available for your use. Sometimes it is very surprising and fun to find so many complimentary cosmetics such as special creams for wrinkles, black soaps made with charcoal, special moisturizing creams for dead skin cells of feet and so on…, which are available when you go to some big modern type spa facilities!!
But old, classical, traditional type may not have any so take yours ALWAYS!
We have never seen a lingerie shop in spa. So it’s better to take it with you or you’ll have to be wearing dirty ones after the bath….
Hair clips, hair elastic
(if you have long hair)
Something you can put your hair tied up with such as hair pins, clips, or elastic. It is a manner NOT to dip your hair in the tub for hygiene care for the others and for your sake as the spa water may damage your hair with component. Same reasons why you put a rubber cap in a swimming pool.
At the entrance
Usually there is a reception where you pay an entrance fee.
Sometimes you have to buy a ticket from a ticket vending machine like the picture on the right.
Pity to say but we have never seen a bilingual type machine. So ask at a reception desk for help. They will surely help you to buy a ticket. If you pay the fee they will give you towels (if included or if you buy or rent) and a key for your locker (only in modern type spa).
OH! And you would have to take your shoes off and put them in the locker before or after buying the ticket.
If you are in spa in male and female couple or a group you have to divide yourselves in two groups according to gender. Male goes to an entrance with NorenW (fabric divider) normally in blue, while female goes to the other with red Noren.
Where you take off your clothes
Type 1. Big modern facilities
See the number of the key that you received at the reception and find your locker which has your number. Sometimes you have to insert 100 yen coin (sometimes it is paid back when you leave) before you close and lock.
Type 2. Old-fashioned traditional typed facilities
If you were not provided with a key, there should be big baskets piled up. Take one and put your clothes in the basket. If you want to follow the Japanese traditional way, cover your basket full of your clothes with a bath towel. (for we think it is awful that everybody can see what is inside in the basket.)
Don’t forget to bring a small towel with you. You can use it to cover or hide where you don’t want to be seen. Just like the Michelangelo’s David with fig leaf! Try not to take a bath towel with you in a bath room even if it is too embarrassing.
Open the door of the paradise
Before going further we would like to let you know how we personally spend our time in spa.
- Wash lightly our bodies
- Go into every bathtub inside
- Go outside bathtubs
- Wash thoroughly our bodies and shampoo our hair
- Go again to outside bathtubs
- Select one we liked the best and go inside for the last bathing
- Wipe our bodies with small towel we carried inside bath room
- Leave bath room and wipe well our bodies with bath towel in dressing room
- Put clothes on, use complimentary skin lotions and cream, and dry our hair with an equipped dryer.
So, advise for you!
- Before going into a hot spring you should go first to the ‘Washing Area” where there are showers in lines. In some spa, each booth is divided with a small wall but some are not. If there are no dividing walls you can recognize that the place of the tap and the shower is a place for one person. Normally in each booth there equipped a tap, a shower, a small chair and an ‘Oke (pail)’. In some spa, chairs and Okes are piled up in one place. In that case, carry one each for your use. (After use, don’t forget to place them back)
- You can use complimentary soaps and shampoos and other equipment as much as you want. But DON’T take them home… or don’t use other people’s private belongings. At some places, local people carry their own personal shampoos and stuff and leave them on the tap while they are in the tub.
- When you use shower, take a little attention not to let the water that you are using bother others around you.
- Before you get yourself into the bath tub, wash your body, especially where you want others to wash. It is a matter of hygiene of course, but also for yourself!
- If you have makeup on, wash it off before you go inside a bath tub.
- When you leave a ‘Washing area’ put everything back neatly where and how they used to be placed. If you find bubbles of your shampoo or soap let them go with shower water.
In a bath tub
- There are several bathtubs with different types of water or different temperatures. We evaluate that it is hot if the temperature is more than 40 degrees Celsius. It’s better to start with a normal temperature bathtub with 38-40 degrees.
- If you splash into hot water your blood pressure will rise abruptly and it can cause a serious problem. And of course….you can displease the others around you with a splash.
- If you want to follow a Japanese traditional way, put your small towel with which you have used as a fig leaf on your head. (we don’t know why some people do this….)
- It is very relaxing if you soak yourself into a hot water. But if you are not accustomed to taking a bath or want to stay in the water for long, it is good to soak your only lower half of your body with upper half cool.
- You will find many types of bathtubs, such as a shallow bath tub where you lie down in a hot water, Jacuzzi, and one like a waterfall…
- You can be stay in the hot spring as long as you want and leave at any time you want. But doctors say that the maximum time would be 30 minutes in lukewarm water and 10 minutes in hot water.
Be careful! You can get dizzy if you stay in hot water too long.
- If there is an open-air bath (it is called ‘Roten-buro’), you should try. Depending the facility and location, you can see a beautiful view of nature or a beautiful sky. You don’t have to worry about peeping! Normally it is designed so well that nobody outside can see you. (But some wild animals do…)
- When you get out of hot water take a slow action. DON’T rush, otherwise you will get dizzy with cause of low blood pressure!
When you leave
It is said that it is better not to wash off the hot spring with shower. Normally the water which comes out from the shower is not a hot spring but a normal water. The medical properties of the hot spring will penetrate deep into the skin for about three hours. But if you have delicate skin or the hot spring is strongly alkalic or acidic use the shower to take off the medical properties.
Drink some water and take some rest at least half an hour. OR why not sit and relax on a massage machine chair?
There are some DON’Ts or Better NOTs if you want to lead an enjoyable hot springs life among Japanese people. A hot spring is a place where people want to relax and not the place to be bothered. When you are in hot springs, you are one of the members who create the atmosphere of the hot spring which is a famous traditional Japanese way of thinking, “Wa (harmony)W”. So try to think what others would think and try not to do what you don’t want to see. You can also give a few words or action of warning to kids who run or scream as Japanese people used to do!
- DON’T swim in a bath tub.
- DON’T wash your body especially with a soap in a bath tub.
- DON’T put your towel in a hot spring.
- DON’T enter a dressing room with your body dripping wet.
- Better NOT shout or talk with a loud voice.
Generally speaking, people who have tattoos are not welcome at hot springs because in Japan tattoos are connected strongly with mafia and people tend to be scared. We know outside Japan the situation is not like this, but here the impact of tattoos is still very negative. We personally don’t like this prejudice but please understand that it takes time to change the frame of mind.
However, there are some hot springs where people who have tattoos can enter and where some private bath rooms are available.
WHAT IS ‘ASHIYU’ (Foot both)?
You may find some facilities such as Michi-no-Eki, a ‘pond’ where people soak their feet in. This is ‘ASHIYU where you can enjoy a relaxing hot spring without taking off your clothes. Putting your feet in Ashiyu for about 20 minutes is said to have the same effect to your body and mind as a normal hot spring does.
There is a special kind of Ashiyu with some fish, ‘Dr. FishW’ inside. This is not a Japanese traditional habit but it is popular in Germany and Turkey, with small Dr. fish eating dead skin cells of your body which is a treatment.
Some effects of Hot springs categorized by components of hot spring
There are millions of hot springs and they can be categorized by components. If you know more about hot springs you can enjoy them more. If you experience many types of hot springs you can easily see the difference!
Here are some examples for your basic knowledge;
- Bicarbonate Type … for your beautiful skin
- Chloride (Salt) Type … for your pain
- Sulfur Type … for high blood pressure and for beautiful skin
- Acid Type … for skin problems
- Carbon Dioxide Type … for sensitivity to cold and shoulder stiffness
- Ironic Type … for anemia and rheumatism
- Radioactive Type (Radium, Radon)… for high blood pressure, skin problems and gynaecological problems
- All Types … General treatment