Once you get used to the idea of bathing with a bunch of strangers, family and friends, the bathhouse can be a very relaxing experience, but let’s not get carried away here – this is Japan after all so there are RULES!
- Take off your shoes! Pretty much like any other traditional indoor space in Japan you will be taking off your shoes. They will have a locker or somewhere for you to put them.
- You will need a small towel for washing, playing feather dance with your yoo-hoos and also for putting on the top of your head which is something a lot of Japanese do for some reason – basically I guess because it is NOT SUPPOSED TO GO INTO THE WATER! If you don’t have one you can usually buy one or get one. Also just so you know, this wet towel will also be what you will most likely use to dry off with unless you are someplace fancy with dry towels. I know.
- TADA! Time to show what ya got! Take off your clothes and put them in the basket (not the one hanging from above with the lotion in it). No bathing suits either!
- IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Wash yourself at the showers with the tiny seats BEFORE you get into the bath. A lot of people will just go through the motions like they are doing some super lame radio taiso exercise routine and actually bathe afterwards but just between us I once read an article about the amount of fecal content in a jacuzzi, so there’s that.
- Once the clean you is ready put everything back in place for the next person who is going to put their dirty butt on the stool you just used, just like the person before you did. Order people. Keep everything orderly.
- If you have long hair, be sure to put it up before you get into the bath. It’s kinda impolite to let your hair down in a public bath. This goes for guys as well. Also if you have a long comb over that drags through the water like a flesh wound when it gets wet then deal with that. Do everyone a favor and keep everything on top ala the Dotard.
- When you are done use that wet towel to wipe off the water. Maybe you will have a dry towel inside the changing room, maybe you won’t. Foresight people. Alternatively you can hang your junk in front of a fan which most changing rooms have (great in winter) or alternatively get a little creative with the hair dryer.
- Lastly, and I know… a bit of a bummer: no tattoos, at least at most places. Check before you go cause some places are a bit more lenient than they used to be.
- Have an after bath beer!
PS Don’t swim in the onsen with the monkeys. It isn’t as glamorous as it seems. They poo in the water. Take pictures instead and go back to your room.