This past weekend I went to an Onsen. It was a wonderful experience. The Onsen is not only used for cleaning yourself, but also for rest, relaxation, and socializing. We arrived soon after playing paintball in Chiba. I was covered in paint and was happy to finally to be able to bathe after being nailed by so many paintballs. When we first arrived I was struck by just how fancy the place was. It was similar to my house in the fact that you had to take off your shoes before entering and put them in a shoe locker.
Before you even consider going to an Onsen, find reading material on the do’s and don’ts of Onsens. It was fortunate for us that they gave us reading materials on the Onsen. It was almost ritual-like with what we had to do. We first had to bathe ourselves in a certain way before getting in the bath. This was understandable. The place can’t be constantly changing out their bathwater. Washing off most of the filth helps the place out by saving them money and time, and Japan is all about politeness and helping out others.
There were so many types of baths I did not know what to do! Luckily other people were on the trip with us who could tell us which baths to go in. We first went into the hottest one. It was enormous! It felt like a swimming pool. Don’t swim around though–it is not courteous to others and Japan appreciates courteous people. There were so many other baths, but somehow I managed to try them all. There were individual baths that made me feel like a bowl of soup and an ice cold one. However, the Onsen is not just for bathing, it is also for socializing. It may seem odd at first, but Japanese are more open in the baths whereas usually they are more quiet and reserved. It was fun talking to the Japanese, and I made quite a few friends in the bath. It was so much fun in the bath that it made me wish that we had Onsen in the U.S. Obviously I couldn’t take pictures in the bath, but trust me when I say it was a sight to behold.
The Onsen was an awesome experience. It was relaxing and it gave me a chance to talk to strangers in Japan, which you rarely have a chance to do unless you approach them. Here, they approached me and I made some friends with people I would never have met unless I went. If you ever find yourself near an Onsen, go. I guarantee you it will be worth it for the amount of contact you get with Japanese people. Just make sure you follow the rules and be respectful of others.