An onsen(Japanese hot spring) is after all a bath, not a swimming pool, you will be asked to take off your clothing before getting into an onsen. So, if you go to an onsen ryokan(Japanese-style inn) or to an onsen facility, in most cases the onsen for men and women are separated. Yes, that is for most cases… There are ryokan/onsen facilities which only own one onsen(tub) which means that men and women have to share one onsen tub. We call these onsen “kon-yoku” which means “mixed onsen”. Of course “no clothing rule” is not an exception for mixed onsen too.
Why only one onsen? Have no money to make an another tub? An onsen is said to be better when it’s fresh. If there’s only one onsen source, making a tub right above the source is an ideal onsen. Therefore, in order to keep the quality of the onsen, there are many onsen ryokan/facilities which have only one onsen tub.
Even so, men and women in a same onsen with no clothes on? This is actually not a comfortable thing for many Japanese people, including myself. But with a bit of a courage and a little manner, you will be able to enjoy a gorgeous onsen!
Here are some tips for both men and women.
1. Usually the dressing rooms are separated. Although you are not allowed to wear a bathing suite, you are allowed to take a towel( big enough to cover up the front part of your body) to the onsen area.
2. Take a peek from the dressing room and see if you feel comfortable getting in. If not, wait until the people leave or when it’s the right timing.
3. Get in the onsen area covering your body with the towel and take it off when you are sure that your body is soaked in an onsen.
4. Try not to stare at other people’s body…
5. There are some onsen facility which offers suits for women(which will cover your whole body) to get into an onsen.
The onsen in the wild is always a mixed onsen but these are the authentic ones that you shouldn’t miss. So, pluck up the courage to try the mixed onsen. No guts, no good onsen!