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How to use the Japanese bath: bathing in an onsen

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If you are followers of Logbook You already know that one of the things I like most about travel to Japan is to use the japanese baths either sat down, onsen or rotenburo. However, like everything traditional in Japan, bathing in these places has its label and must be known before entering the hot water. In this article I explain the different types of bathrooms, how to use them and a bit of their history.

How to use the Japanese bath (onsen)

First of all you have to take off your shoes in the genkan (hall) and be careful that the shoes just touch the floor and nothing else. The wooden platform is to put bare feet. Before entering, you have to leave your shoes in one of the ticket offices at the entrance.

To access the bathrooms, you have to take into account that they are separated by sex, but each one is normally indicated with a noren (short curtain) hanging on the door. The women's is usually red or pink and has the woman's kanji written (onna). The curtain of men is usually blue and has written the kanji of man (otoko). If you have doubts, always ask before entering.

At locker room there are lockers or some baskets where we will have to leave our clothes and our things. In the japanese bath goes nakedRemember that it is a bathroom where you can wash and relax, no a pool. I recommend you bring a large and a small towel. Sometimes the hand towel they give it to you right there or it is rented, and this is the one that you have to take in the water zone. The Large towel It is to finish drying well and must be left in the locker room. It is recommended that you take off chains, watches and bracelets before entering the onsen, since these are usually hot springs and the high content of minerals makes the jewels black.

Once naked, we enter the water zone. Here you have to use the small towel to cover up a little the rotting parts when you walk through the bathroom. This area is divided into two parts: the zone of washed and the area of relax. You will see large saucepans and stools next to a series of low-rise faucets with shower gel and shampoo dispensers.

First of all you have to go to the faucet area and wash us conscientiously. To do this, we take a stool and a basin and sit in front of the tap. In some onsen You will find the stool with the basin upside down in front of the tap. According to the quality and price of onsen, you will have more or less types of soap. It is normal to have bath gel, shampoo and softener, and a mirror to look at while you wash. I said: to lather well and wash thoroughly. We can also use the hand towel to rub our backs and body.

When you are soaped, you can rinse using the shower handle or basin, always with care do not splash. When using the shower control, you have to sit down, because if not, you will disturb and splash other users. Once perfectly clarified, rinse the hand towel to remove the remaining soap and rinse the area of ​​the tap that we have used so that there are no soap remains. We left the stool and basin also rinsed with soap where they were at the beginning and if they were already in front of the tap, we left everything clean as we found it.

And now it is time to relax in the hot water. You have to carefully enter the bath or pool and the hand towel can not put it in the water. Usually the Japanese fold it and put it on top of the head, but you can also leave it on the margin or on a rock. If you have long hair you have to pick it up so it doesn't touch the water.

He onsen it's a place of relaxso you have to avoid making a lot of noise. You can't swim either, because it's not for that. On the other hand, the water of onsen usually very hot, above 42 degrees, so it is important that you enter it little by little. Before entering you can drink some water from onsen with the basin and slowly throw it down the legs starting with the feet to get used to the body. If you have the low pressure Do not spend much time in the water. Oh, and you can't immerse your head in the water, you have to keep the water up to your neck, although if you have a low pressure it is better that the water does not exceed your chest height.

Vignette of Akatsuki no yonaby Mizuho Kusanagi

Many onsen they have outdoor water zone what are they called rotenburo. Personally I like them a lot because they tend to be in nature and in cold times the hot water is much better supported.

When you are finished, before entering the locker room you have to remove excess water with the small towel so as not to wet everything. According to the quality of the onsen, in the locker room you will find creams for the body, face, single-use toothbrushes, dryer, drinking water, etc. It is important drink water before and after of the onsen to hydrate properly. Remember also to go to the bathroom before entering the water, because once inside if you have to go to the service you will surely have to dress to access the toilet, since there are usually no changing rooms.

Are tattoos allowed on onsen?

As usual, no. The Japanese do not usually get tattooed because this practice is associated with criminals. They were tattooed to distinguish them during the Edo period and the Yakuza (Japanese mafia). So, if you have visible tattoos, it is very likely that they will not let you into the onsen. If it is small you can cover it with a band that is water resistant. In the face of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics they are trying to keep foreigners from having access to Japanese bathrooms even if they wear tattoos. However, bathrooms are private establishments and each has its own policies.

Interior of a public restroom, engraving by Yoshiiku Utagawa

If you have the dyed hair, especially women with long hair, they may not let you into a onsen for fear that hair fades. In the case of women, if you have the menstruation and you use buffer you can use the washing area of ​​the onsen, but you can't get into the shared bathtub because of hygiene.

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