Onsen etiquette

Interested in visiting an onsen? Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you are a first timer in taking the plunge!

Upon arrival

Like most places in Japan, taking your shoes off at the door is the first thing to do at the onsen. Place your shoes into a locker and head to the reception desk.

At the reception you will be required to pay a fee. Charges range from 460 yen for a local bath house with no soaps, shampoos/condtioners and towels, up to 2500yen which also includes rental  yukata (cotton kimono) and towels, as well as access to a full range of ammenities including face and body creams. In some cases small private baths for families or couples may be available as well. Prices will likely start at around 3000 yen for an hour.

If you have not brought a towel with you, a small “face towel” can be purchased for around 150-200yen. Alternatively larger bath towels can also be rented for around 300yen. Soaps, shampoos etc may range from 10 yen to 100 yen for little bottles.

Usually the payment is cash up front, however in some cases where the onsen has restaurant and tether services, you may be given a bar coded wrist band which is scanned whenever you purchase things throughout the day, and you will pay as you leave.



Once you are paid up, it is time to head for the change rooms and you will find there will be noren (Japanese curtain)  at the entry. Generally blue will refer to the men’s and pink or red for the women’s side.  The word “yu” standing for hot water is often featured,

A word of warning though, if you are staying overnight at a ryokan sometimes they alternate the baths between men and women as each bath may have different features, so dont just blindly head in the direction that you had your bath the previous evening or your may be in for a surprise!



Change rooms generally provide lockers or baskets for your belongings. It is now time to fully strip off, drape your face towel across your front for some modesty and head into the bathing area. There is no time to be shy or bashful….its time….!



Showering and bathing

As you enter the bathing area, you will notice individual plastic stools, little buckets and individual shower heads that are to be used whilst ou are siting down. Find yourself a stool and begin your scrub down that must be done before entering the bath. This is not just important for removing dirt and grime, but for fully clearing your pores, to allow all of the goodness or the minerals to soak into your skin. It is also a ritual allowing you to slow down psychologically and prepare for the amazing relaxation to come in the bath.

You are now ready to enter the bath….

Points to note…


  • Start by immersing your body a little at a time, commencing with your lower half and once adjusted, ease your full body in
  • Keep well hydrated with water as the baths are quite hot
  • Be mindful of others in the bath, but smile or say hello!
  • Ensure you have covered any tatoos


  • Let your towel or hair into the bath water
  • swim or splash around!
  • enter the baths if you are intoxicated – alcohol and hot baths do not mix
  • stay too long in the bath if you are starting to feel weak
  • take the opportunity to catch up on hand washing you clothes!


Returning to the change room and rest area

Be sure to wipe yourself down with your face towel to remove excess water before entering the change room. Head back to your locker and slip into your yukata, or if you are heading home, back into your normal clothes. There are generally hairdryers provided.

Finally, be sure to head to the relaxation area we here there are seats or tatami area to unwind after your bath, You will notice an incredible glow and tingle throough your body. Ensure to grab a drink from the vending machines to hydrate again. Most of all, just sit back and relax as our body glows in the after onsen bliss!