Had my first onsen today, and though it was at first a little intimidating, I very much enjoyed it. There were only two older gentlemen frequenting the tub at the same time, so it was a nice and easy way to ease into my first onsen experience. So it’s made abundantly clear that absolutely no articles of clothing of any kind are allowed. Only one small “modesty towel” is allowed to cover your junk while entering the bath, but it must not touch the main bath water. And absolutely no tattoos allowed, as they are traditionally a sign of the Yakuza.
- Take off your slippers outside the entrance.
- Enter the spa of your gender (at my Ryokan they switch periodically).
- Strip, leaving your clothes in a basket.
- Enter the main bath area.
- Claim a wash station and sit on the stool.
- Fill the washbasin and clean yourself thoroughly, being careful not to splash adjacent stations.
- Use very hot water to acclimatize your body to the 41-45°C bath water.
- Enter main bath.
- Place towel outside bath ledge or atop your head.
- Be prepared for friendly conversation.
- Wash again upon exiting bath.
- Dry off thoroughly before exiting spa area.
I’m staying at the B+B Pension Hotel in Hakone. The hotel does not have any central heating turned on, and it has taken me three days to figure out how to get my room’s heaters operating consistently. I’ve woken up a couple times to a very cold room after a chilly sleep, so it’s been nice to enjoy an onsen once or twice a day.
I ran out of cold hard yen yesterday and there are no ATMs in the area that accept my international card, so I had to explore around a bit until I found a post office, which usually have international ATMs with an English option. On the way back I decided to stop in at 7Eleven to get some food for the next couple days to save some money instead of eating out for every meal. Their food selection and quality is actually very good. Just throw your meal in the microwave for a few minutes and it’s nearly as good as ordering from a restaurant.
There are shrines all over the place, some big, most very small, but all immaculately kept. The Sano Shrine nearby my hotel is so beautiful and peaceful. At the entrance, you clean your hands in the fountain, then walk along many pathways that follow along, through, and over swiftly flowing and branching creeks and little ponds. At the main shrine there are fresh flowers and overturned rice bowls placed at each statue. Even if you don’t believe in Shinto, you can ring the bells to get the attention of the gods, throw some coins in the collection alter, and pray or wish for good luck and fortune.