How to use the onsen in Japan

Hey, you’re in Japan—-want to get naked with 126.8 million new friends?  You got this!

  • Do you have tattoos?  No onsen for you.  There are about 20 different signs saying “No tattoos in the onsen.”  Well, maybe if you just have that one lame butterfly tattoo from high school you could put and bandaid over it, but otherwise, tough luck.
  • Put on your yukata, right side and then left on top.  (Do it the other way and that means you’re dead.)
  • Put on the slippers they give you with the yukata.  Note to self: ignore your longstanding fear of contracting a foot fungus.
  • Go in the onsen and take off your robe and put it in a locker.  Leave the totally-don’t-have-foot fungus slippers on the shelf.
  • Walk buck naked to a area with stools and shower nozzles and wash yourself all over while sitting on the stool.  Note to self: try not to think of all the other naked bums that have recently shared that stool.  Focus instead on the fact that every Japanese toilet has a bidet.  Japanese people have the cleanest private bits in the world.
  • Really rinse off.  Nothing stresses out Japanese people more than the thought of you getting soap in the onsen.
  • Now get into the onsen,  Hope everyone is enjoying your impressive accumulation of mosquito bites.
  • Weeeeeeee—there are bubbles!  How come you didn’t know there were bubbles???!!!
  • Pretend not to look at the other naked people but actually look at them with a super-stealthy side eye.
  • When you’re forehead is sweaty, get out.  Don’t want to faint like dumb rookie.
  • Go back to your room and check the news to be sure there aren’t anymore massive typhoons about to hit Japan, which could prevent you from visiting the onsen again tomorrow morning.




  1. Omg ! My favorite!! Don’t you feel clean? It’s true – you have to not overthink all the skeevy possibilities- although as you point out re bidets (I have one btw – easy to install – once tried can never go back!) this is Japan we’re talking about.
    Tattoo ban is their sly way of keeping yakuza away. I used to go to my neighborhood one daily- cheaper than heating up bathwater. in case you’re still around.
    Thanks for the (as usual hilarious) reminders of things I miss about Japan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally want a bidet now too but I’m worried that my building’s vintage plumbing couldn’t handle it.

      Did you use the electric bath at the funoaka onsen?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a pretty simple set up – my house is 1930s and old old old scary pipes. It doesn’t really stress anything.
        In almost 4 years I probably got in the electric one 3 times. IF! And at least once without knowing what I was in for. Creepy!! Did you try?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No, I’m strictly vanilla when it comes to onsens.


  2. Worth getting a tattoo to avoid this experience…well, almost.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can see you with a nice scull and crossbones on your bicep…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Have to find the bicep first…how age makes one deteriorate.
        I suppose the choice of tatoo would be between ‘Remember Limerick’, ‘Amor vincit omnia’ and ‘wha daur meddle wi’ me’ but the bicept at its most positive would have had trouble with all of them.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I was so disappointed to miss out on this experience because of my body art. I thought of just going anyway but couldn’t face the humiliation of being frogmarched naked from the place.


    1. I want to know what the enforcement looks like. I mean there wasn’t a pre-onsen inspection or anything.


  4. We didn’t try an on onsen. 🙂 Glad you had the lifetime experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You didn’t try in because you have so many tattoos, right? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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