Public Baths And Hot Spring Culture in Japan

A country nestled amongst volcanically active regions, naturally occurring hot springs are everywhere. The Japanese word onsen means hot spring, however these days I guess it is also used to describe the public baths and hotels. There is a big hot spring culture in Japan!

There are monkeys that enjoy a dip in natural hot springs.

It’s a great way to relax and let off steam (literally). The water is rich in natural minerals, though each onsen will have a different composition based on its location or proximity to hot springs in the immediate area.

Some examples of types of onsen include:
• Sulphur onsen (硫黄泉 iō-sen)
• Sodium chloride onsen (ナトリウム泉 natoriumu-sen)
• Hydrogen carbonate onsen (炭酸泉 tansan-sen)
• Iron onsen (鉄泉 tetsu-sen)

Here is a great infographic from TripAdvisor.


There are monkeys that enjoy a dip in natural hot springs, just north of Tokyo. During the winter months, you can actually see these Japanese Macaques at Jigokudani Monkey Park – they’ll come down in the the onsen during the day and go back to their homes at night.

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Edit 16 September 2015
Just to add my thoughts and experience about onsen, I thought I’d write a few words.

I really had no expectation for the onsen experience. I only thought of the relaxin hot water, soaking my aching muscles, improving blood circulation and all-round revitalisation. The minerals in the water might do something for my skin, but I wasn’t too concerned about that.

Before getting into the onsen, you need to shower – scrub away all the dirt from the world outside and wash it down the drain. I knew in the back of my mind that my hair would somehow fall out and end up in the onsen – but I kept quiet about that.

Being the only hairy guy in the onsen, I was a little self-conscious about it. But any concerns I had were gone once we were all submerged in the hot spring.

The temperature was hot. Very hot. When the water touched my skin, I felt as though I had touched something cold, like ice – but of course, it was a burning sensation! As I soaked in the hot mineral bath, I felt good – blood circulation was improved and I could feel my muscles relax.

After about ten minutes, however, I began to feel dizzy and light-headed. The high temperatures were starting to affect my positive experience. I decided to hop out and rinse off.

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