It was not something I ever dreamt of doing in my life – taking a bath in public and with complete strangers at that! But while in Osaka, I could not pass up the chance to experience this Japanese tradition of using the public bath, or onsen, which uses natural hot spring waters.
We were fortunate that our hotel in Osaka had an onsen and offered the free use of this facility for all their guests. Since there was only one onsen, males & females had separate schedules of using it.
When one enters the onsen, you remove your slippers and go to the changing room to deposit all your clothes and towel. You can keep a small face towel which you can use to cover your private parts.
Traditionally, you have to rinse yourself completely to wash off the body dirt before soaking into the bath or pool. Soap and shampoo are provided in the wash area where you sit in a small stool and use the basin to fill up with water. You can use your face towel to lather your body.
After completely rinsing your body of all soap and shampoo residue, you can now enter the bath and soak your body slowly as the bath water is HOT! Something like 40-44 degrees celsius. You cannot use your face towel inside the bath. That is why you often see the Japanese put their face towel on top of their head when they are inside the bath or pool area.
After soaking in the bath or pool for a few minutes, you can rinse again with soap and water and then re-enter the pool. This time, you can soak longer and get the benefit of all the natural spring elements and salts. Afterwards, you DO NOT rinse anymore (to preserve the effects of the natural salts), but towel dry in the changing room (or what I observed, the Japanese use their face towel to dry up first before going to the changing room).
This DEFINITE tops the list of my most memorable experience in this Japan holiday.
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