In this article, I'd like to introduce you to hot springs in Japan. Onsen, hot spring, has a long history in Japan, with a history of over 1000 years. There are certain rules of etiquette when using Onsen, and these rules must be observed. Please be sure to know these manners before you use Onsen.
Summer is over and it's getting chilly!
This season makes me want to go to the hot springs!
Hot springs! Now that I'm in Japan, I want to go there!
I didn't know you hadn't been to a hot spring yet. Maybe we should go next weekend!
The word "hot spring" refers to the phenomenon or place where hot water is boiling out of the ground, and to the hot water itself. Bathing facilities that use these hydrothermal springs and the areas where they are gathered, hot spring towns and hot spring villages, are generally called hot springs. Depending on the ingredients contained in the hot spring, there are various colors, smells and effects. According to the Ministry of the Environment, there are currently 3,038 hot spring areas and 27,422 hot spring sources in Japan.
It's a strange thing to find warm water gushing out of the ground!
Right. Actually, hot springs are divided into two types of heat sources. One is called "volcanic" and the other is called "non-volcanic".
Wow, what's the difference between the two?
"Volcanic" is literally close to a volcano and contains a lot of volcanic gas, sometimes seawater and sometimes organic matter.
Non-volcanic materials are those that are deep underground and have been heated by geothermal sources. Normally, the deeper underground, the higher the temperature. In Japan, this geothermal gradient is said to be 0.03 degrees Celsius per meter, but there are some hot springs that cannot be explained by the normal geothermal gradient. There are many theories out there, but there's still no clear answer.
Hmmm. It's true that Japan has a lot of volcanoes!
Yes, there are actually more "volcanic" hot springs out there.
Have Japanese people been bathing in hot springs for a long time?
Yes, you're right. There are many myths about hot springs in various places. Most of them are about "Okuninushi-no-mikoto" and "Shaohikonomikoto", the gods of hot springs. There is also an old document about the use of hot springs in the form of a purification ceremony.
Wow, Japan is full of myths, isn't it?
From an archaeological point of view, it is said that herbivores flocked to the salty hot springs in search of salt, and humans, who hunted these animals, gathered around the hot springs, and as they did so, a culture that was familiar with the hot springs was born.
By the way, have you ever heard of "Three Famous Fountains of Japan"?
I know! You mean Arima Onsen, Kusatsu Onsen, and Gero Onsen!
Oh yeah! That's right!
You know WELL!
I did some research on hot springs before I came to Japan, and they have been called "Japan's Three Famous Springs" since the Muromachi period (1336-1573), right?
Yes, it was first mentioned in the poetry collection "Baika Mujinzou" by Manri Shukku, a poet-monk from the Kyoto Gozan Shokokuji Temple.
Do you know that there are also "three ancient springs in Japan"?
I don't know.
It's a historic hot spring that deserves to be called "The Old Spring.
There are two theories about these three hot springs.
The first theory is that these three hot springs are called "Dogo Onsen," "Arima Onsen," and "Shirahama Onsen," which came to be known as such after they appeared in the Nihon Shoki and Fudoki books.
The other three are Dogo-Onsen, Arima-Onsen and Iwaki-Yumoto-Onsen. They are described as such in the "Engi-Shiki Shinmeicho".
Nihon Shoki <日本書紀>
The Nihon Shoki is a historical book that is said to have been completed in 720. It is the oldest surviving authentic history of Japan.
A report compiled during the Nara period (710-794), in which the cultural climate and geographical features of each country were recorded and presented to the emperor.
Engi-Shiki Shinmei-cho <延喜式神明帳>
A list of shrines throughout the country that were designated as "government shrines" at the time, which was compiled in 927 as part of the "Engi-Shiki" booklet, Volume 9.10.
I see, I'd like to visit them all!
Yes, they're all great hot springs that you should visit at least once.
Also, Tina, manners are very important when you go to a hot spring.
I didn't know there are manners when we bathe!
1. Beware of tattoos!
Tattoos are known as "tattoos" in Japan and have long been a symbol of gangs. If you have a tattoo, you may be refused a bath or asked to cover it up.
2. Remove your accessories!
Accessories are easily lost in the baths and are very dangerous if other guests step on them. In addition, depending on the ingredients of the water, the metal can be discolored, so it is advisable to remove them in advance.
3 Don't wear your bathing suit and underwear, bring a towel to the bathhouse!
When bathing, strip down in the changing room and head to the bathhouse without your underwear or swimsuit. Bring a locker key and a towel to enter the bathhouse. The soap and shampoo are usually provided, so you don't need to bring them.
4. Wash up and then get in the tub!
Basically, it's good manners to avoid getting the water in the tub dirty. Don't get into the tub immediately; instead, wash yourself in the washroom and then get into the tub. Women should remove their make-up before getting into the bath.
5. Do not dye your hair or do your laundry in the washroom!
Dyeing or washing your hair in the washroom is generally not allowed; some laundries have coin-operated laundries, so use them to wash your hair.
6. Don't put towels and hair in hot water!
Do not soak your hair or towel in the hot water while soaking in the baths; you may see scenes in TV shows and guidebooks of celebrities in the baths with towels wrapped around them, but those are just for filming.
７．You must wipe your body with a towel before going into the changing room!
When you return to the changing rooms after enjoying the hot springs, make sure to wipe the water off your entire body with the towel you brought with you. It is considered a nuisance to enter the changing room soaking wet and wetting the floor.
Please observe these manners and enjoy the hot springs to your heart's content!
Onsen is meaning hot spring. Hot water heated by volcanoes and geothermal sources.
Thanks for reading this far!
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