How to enjoy hot spring / onsen in Japan?
1) Get naked, 2) DO! Rinse off, and 3) Soak and relax.
And be a nice person.
Onsen (hot springs) are one of the "must" experiences in a trip to Japan. Onsen are the most popular way for Japanese people to relax! Onsen are almost everywhere in Japan, so even if you're only going to Tokyo you can easily make a day trip to an onsen. Nowhere is a better place than an onsen to forget your hectic daily life, relax, and soothe and rejuvenate your body and mind.Here are some rules, manners and advice on how to enjoy onsen. Simply put, 1) Get naked, 2) Rinse off, and 3) Soak and relax. Here it is in more detail:
1. First of all, you will completely undress in the dressing room. And you won't wear a bathing suit. You must be naked when you enter an onsen. You can bring a small towel with you into the bathing area which can be used to wash your body and to hide your private parts (if you want) outside the water. You don't necessarily have to cover your parts, but it's a good idea to not show them off or draw attention to them anyway. It is recommended to take off your accessories and watches. Also, almost all onsen have separate bathing areas for men and women.
2. Once in the bathing area, you will rinse off and wash before getting into the tub. This is important as it allows you to get used to the hot temperature and also keeps the bath water clean for other bathers. The water may feel a little too hot for those not used to it, as it's around 40°C. Also, don't dive or jump into the tub.
3. Feel free to say hello to other bathers. Japanese people may be shy and not good at English, but your greeting will break the ice and start some small talk in a friendly atmosphere.
4. In the bath, it is recommended to soak up to your knee first, then waist, then chest, and finally neck. This helps you gradually get used to the temperature and water pressure.
5. Don't put your towel into the water. Put it on your head, the edge of the tub or a rock near you. As mentioned before, you do not need to hide your parts, but if you want to, you need to do it with your hands or by crossing your legs. In some onsen, you need not bother as the water is milky white and nobody can see your body in the water.
6. Don't put soap in the water. Also, don’t swim – the baths are for relaxing.
7. You may be able to drink some beer or sake while soaking, but take good care not to drink too much.
8. Don't soak for too long. If you begin sweating, you may want to get out of the water for a bit and then soak again. An onsen is not a place to compete in endurance.
9. Do not shower after you soak. Most onsen have mineral elements and a shower is likely to weaken those minerals' healing effects.
10. Wipe your body with your towel before returning the dressing room.
11. After getting out of the onsen, drink water or a sports drink to hydrate yourself.
Too many rules and manners?
Don't worry. Remember the basics: 1) Get naked, 2) Rinse off, and 3) Soak and relax.
And be a nice person. Voila! You are a great onsen bather!
Japanese Table Manner
Observe These Rules for Using Chopsticks Properly:
Avoid pointing your chopsticks at someone while talking.
・Do not wave your chopsticks around over food on the table.
・Do not point your chopsticks to indicate dishes you think are particularly delicious.
・Do not suck sauces off of your chopsticks.
・Do not rub your chopsticks together or play with them unnecessarily.
・Do not lift food by stabbing it with your chopsticks.
The Most Important Rule of Japanese Dining Etiquette
Doing so reminds Japanese of the ritual of passing cremated bones between chopsticks at funerals.
The same rule applies to sticking your chopsticks into a bowl of rice vertically -- another morbid symbol.
Japanese Dining Etiquette for Drinking
Meals are often accompanied with drinks, either beer or sake -- don't drink alone! Wait on all glasses to be filled, then someone will give a toast or simply say kanpai! which means cheers. Raise your glass, return the kanpai, and then drink.
Japanese often jump at the chance to pour drinks for each other; you should do the same. Top up the glasses of people seated around you, and never pour your own drink.
Learn how to say cheers in Japanese and more drinking etiquette.
Things to Avoid in Japanese Dining Etiquette
Don't blow your nose at the table; instead, excuse yourself and go to the toilet or outside. Sniffling at the table to avoid blowing your nose is actually acceptable.
Do not point at people with chopsticks or your finger while making a point.
Although you should bring a gift if invited to someone's home for dinner, avoid giving anything in sets of four or nine. The two numbers sound similar to the words for death and suffering and are regarded with superstition.
Learn more about how to eat Japanese food correctly.