Japan Travel in the Know: How to Take a Hot Spring Bath (Onsen) in Japan

A Japanese classic onsen street the center of which there is a small river running

How to spoil yourself in Japanese hot-spring inns (onsen ryokan)

Which country do you think has the most hot springs in the world? You thought I would answer it was Japan? I’m sorry I couldn’t meet your expectation. It’s the US, and Japan comes second. In fact, there are so many hot springs in Yellowstone National Park (YNP) in the US. As I’ll describe later how lazily we stay in hot-spring inns, it’s true that hot springs spoil people. However, the problem of hot springs in YNP is they will literally spoil human bodies because most of them are strong acid, not suitable for bathing. If it’s limited to hot springs we can enjoy without dying, Japan is No.1. Today, let me explain how to spoil yourself correctly in Japanese hot-spring inns for your future reference after the COVID restrictions are lifted.

The first rule of Hot-spring club: Bathe three times at least

Averagely, we bathe three times for a stay of one night: Soon after check-in, before going to bed, and soon after getting up next morning. Accordingly, we can enjoy a sunset, night sky, and sunrise in an open-air bath. For your information, let me share the typical and official way how to stay in a Japanese hot-spring inn as follows: check-in, taking a bath, lying down on the tatami-mat floor of a room until dinner, having dinner, taking a walk outside, taking a bath, sleeping, getting up, taking a bath, having breakfast, and check-out. How lazy and nonproductive we are in hot-spring inns!

The passage of time has stopped in hot-spring towns

The only exception is a walk outside. In case of hot-spring towns, there are many souvenir shops, and visitors are expected to shop something there. We’re not completely nonproductive but make a contribution to GDP growth. I know it’s just a little bit though. The dress code of hot-spring inns is Yukata, Japanese traditional casual clothes. You can go anywhere in Yukata, even outside your inn when it’s located in a hot-spring town (see the above image). People walking in Yukata in the traditional streetscape of a hot-spring town will make you feel like traveling back in time to the past.

A good mixture of modern and traditional atmosphere in Japanese hot-spring inns

Our furniture is modern in design, but it also goes well with the traditional atmosphere of such hot-spring inns. I think it’s because some Japanese aesthetics lie beneath, probably. In addition, we customize products for more convenience in the Japanese traditional way of life. For example, the chairs in the above image are designed to be lower and have rails between chair legs (in the front-back direction) so that people can pull and put back a chair on a tatami-mat floor more easily. Next time you come to Japan, treat yourself with our furniture in hot-spring inns.

A corporate logo, the letters of C and H are combined to look like a tree in a circle

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.