I Have To Go In HOW? Part 4 – Sort of

So I must start out with an apology and a conundrum. First the apology.

Yes- it was I who perhaps spammed you with previously published posts. As to the why? Well, I have been living in several dimensions during the last 24 hours which have left me – well – demented. The result led to several calamitous situations including publishing pictures of a not yet released post, deleting already posted editions which as part of a series, must be re-posted leading to the spamming of a merciful and forgiving audience. I am most apologetic for the accidental blogging bombardment.

Just so you know, and as a reminder to myself, this is Part 4 of the series.

During our virtual tour, two important cultural encounters were left off due to the necessity of building a post around each. A visit to Japan is not complete without participating in these two uniquely Japanese experiences. The first is a mandatory visit to a Japanese onsen- or Hot Spring. Japan is comprised of several volcanic islands- like Hawaii. One of the benefits to this geological structure, in addition to Hawaiian last-minute evacuation vacations, are the presence of multiple hot springs throughout Japan. For centuries, the Japanese people have been enjoying the relaxing and purported healing properties of the onsens.


That’s right folks- bathing suits not optional for covering up the muffin top that one can’t quite suck in without looking like Hefty Hercules. As I expose the facts, you’ll see the conundrum.

How can a culture famous for the little wisp of a dress that just screams “SEX NOW,” the kimono, advocate mixed sex nude bathing? Kimonos are even stuffed in order to make the wearer flat when viewed from the side. Given the multiple layers of the kimono, the stuffing, and the obi (belt) which wraps several times around the wearer, it has to be the unofficial first form of birth control, the proponents of whom are the Japanese, and yet, they soak together, naked, in hot springs? And have for centuries?

Although I rank high on the cultural acceptance scale, I find this difficult to reconcile.

Some modern-day hip kimono wearers at Meiji Shrine

Wedding Kimono Wikipedia

I’m finding that Americans, in spite of our proclivity to wear tight clothing, show cleavage, and short hemlines way past the age of acceptable, are still prudes when it comes to shedding the shreds we wear. “Hodaka no Tsukiai” is the prevailing logic for the “get down to your birthday suit” mentality held in Japan. The phrase literally translated means “Naked Communion.” The idea of communing while au naturel allows bathers to get to know each other without the influence of outside factors. All status markers are left in baskets outside while inside one must present the true self or a reasonable facsimile. When viewed through this cultural lens, it dovetails nicely with the Japanese cultural ideal of group harmony- known as Wa- and fits with the other commonly held values.

Onsen at Niseko Hilton, Hokaido Japan

Mystery solved. I’ve been transparent with the expected attire. Now on to the nuts and bolts of onsen.

There are variations of onsens; men or women only, mixed, and in some cases one can wear a bathing suit. Indoor and outdoor. Foot only, hands only, now everyone put your right elbow in only, etc.

In order to be considered legitimate, the onsen has to have a temperature of at least 25 degrees celcius- 77 degrees F, and must contain a minimum of 19 different chemical agents. Cesium, Plutonium and Iodine are the most recent additions to that list. In reality, given that onsens derive heat from volcanic activity below, it’s a lot hotter than 25. Most onsen goers recommend that one immerse oneself to the neck immediately rather than gradually. The burn subsides after about 60 seconds primarily because the nerve endings are no longer viable.

Photo by Misocutlet on Travelblog.com Click picture to see other pics from Misocutlet

Strict rules for bathing before entering the water apply to the onsen. Rather than recite them, I prefer to attach my cheat sheet below. I won’t divulge where I store it on site. Let’s just say it fits in nicely when folded.

An Illustrated Textbook for Japanese Conversation- Please note that the towel on the man's head apparently belongs there.

There is a room outside for clothing. The pipe spewing water is not for drinking…

An Illustrated Textbook for Japanese Conversation

It goes without saying that picture-taking is not allowed in the onsen. Otherwise pictures of Spouse and me breaking the calm by screaming like heretics burning at the stake upon entry to these waters heated in hell would be all over the internet with the heading “Things not to do.” Also, cover your tattoos as these will prevent admission and are seen  in Japan as a mark of the mafia. Cover with band-aids.

Lastly, my favorite advice from one our favorite hotels in Hakuba below:

A spa closer to Tokyo, with views overlooking the beach and Mt. Fuji is the Enoshima Island Spa. Just outside of Tokyo, it’s an onsen with a view, a temple and a beach. Not a bad place to spend the day. Rumored to have the turbo charged pedicure- nibbling fish or “garra rufa.” These toothless fish suck all the dead skin and whatever else is lodged in between those toes. Appears to be my sole remaining hope for getting sandal ready.

MSNBC News- Click to Play

A trip to the onsen is a must for any trip to Japan- my preference being the outside onsens. Otherwise it feels like a hot tub without the booze and the Jersey Shore gang.

Enoshima Island Spa

That leaves one last item on the agenda before our tour breathes its final breath.

So rest up!

This entry was posted in Moving to Japan, Places and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to I Have To Go In HOW? Part 4 – Sort of

  1. mairedubhtx says:

    Very interesting


  2. Okay I am all for the Onsen! And yes the outfits do seem to scream birth control! But are beautiful!


    • amblerangel says:

      I thought Kimono fabric was of nightgown material before coming here. The fabric- especially on the wedding kimonos- is just amazing. Usually multiple fabrics are used on one kimono. They are stunning.


  3. jacquelincangro says:

    Ooh, I just got a little twinge watching those “garra rufa.” I’m not sure I’d enjoy that!

    But I would like the onsen. At least they explain what to do with your towel. I bet you can do the same with your cheat sheet. 🙂


    • amblerangel says:

      I’m just dying to have those fish suck my toes. As kids we always tried to stick our fingers in the mouths of koi while the other kid lured it in with bread…..Yea- good times, good times. Also got us kicked out of every Chinese buffet around…


  4. Okay, my friend, let me see if I have this correct. You reposted part 3, claiming it was part 4? I seem to recall clicking to read and thinking I must be crazy or forgetful or something, as it seemed I had already read the post, but my inbox marked the email as unread.

    Regardless, this is fascinating! Culture is so bizarre no matter where you happen to find yourself on the planet!



  5. Rhi says:

    This sounds pretty amazing… not sure how comfortable I’d be with stripping down to the nuddypants… but then again with 9 tattoos, one of which covers my entire stomach, I don’t think I’d be allowed even if I wanted to!!



    • amblerangel says:

      Well- the solution to that is to wrap you mummy style with gauze- I’m sure there are plenty of ways to get around that issue as tattoos are predominant- as an art form- in most cultures. Don’t let that stop you!


  6. So you’re allowed to “loudly exclaim your pleasure” in the onsens?! What happened to the Japanese rule of not making a lot of noise? And what does the “rugged atmosphere” in the rock baths do for you?


    • amblerangel says:

      Isn’t that Hilarious???? I thought might be confusing.That came from an inside onsen owned by – dare I say it- Australians. it’s private so no one else but the “party” that claimed it for the hour can go in so you can be as loud as you want but it is not the rule. In general, the Japanese are very quiet- even when riled up they’re still quiet compared to others so you really have watch yourself in the onsen- water carries sound as you know.


  7. The Nose says:

    Can’t tell you how many times I laughed reading this post, then cried because I was one of your expected guests. No more!!! Each post is like being stabbed through the heart with a chopstick covered in spicy ramen soup. While naked. In an onsen. While being attacked by monkeys. All within sight of a Shrine Sale, shopping district, sushi bar, in which I am not allowed. I can’t take it anymore.


    • amblerangel says:

      One more – then you will have been fully tortured for the cancellation and subsequent mental anquish I’ve suffered. I’ll take your comment as an admission of guilt and a formal request for pardon- duly noted.


  8. Tori Nelson says:

    Haha! The poster says you “may loudly exclaim your pleasure”… is this a nice way of telling you it is permitted to scream “My arse is on fire!”?


  9. Hmmm…I don’t have tattoos, but the sight of my unclothed body could cause immediate evacuation of the onsen…

    Thanks for the tour, Ambler Angel!



    • amblerangel says:

      Hahahah! Fun fact- speaking of evacuations- apparently people in pools or onsens during the earthquake all got pushed to the side by “pool tsunamis” If that didn’t get them out of the water I doubt you strutting in will!

      On a congratulatory note- Kudos on being Freshly Pressed! So happy for you!


  10. Olga SE says:

    Is it the same onsen one can see in “Memoirs of a Geisha”? If so, to me it looks attractive and intimidating at the same time.

    Emily, is it fun to bathe in an outside onsen when the weather is warm? We have a few hot springs in Russia but when it is warmer than -15 or -10 degrees Celcius, the water feels too hot to enjoy bathing. So we only go there in winter, preferably on cold days (-25 to -30 Celcius is all right).


    • amblerangel says:

      Oh yea- the best time for the Clampitt clan is during snowboarding season- snowy outside the onsen, steaming on the inside! I agree with you Olga- hot on the outside and burning on the inside leaves me sweating for days.


  11. Michi says:

    I would love a trip to the onsen!! 😀 I’ll make sure to never get a tattoo. 😉


  12. I know that this is a bit late in the tour to be asking these questions….are you one of those tour guides that carry a brightly coloured flag and a megaphone so that you can yell from close range into the ears of your tour party? And have you handed out some sort of unifying clothing so that we all know that we belong to your group – matching peaked caps, name cards on ribbons (matching your flag) around our necks or the budget version – neon stickers with smiley faces? Or do tour groups work differently in Japan?


    • amblerangel says:

      I’m so loud I don’t need assistance magnifying or throwing my voice. Here- a simple flag is raised above the crowd that the tour follows. I put a picture of my face on it. It’s so scary it keeps stragglers from trying to mooch in on our tour.


  13. That is very attention-grabbing, You are an excessively skilled blogger.

    I’ve joined your feed and look forward to looking for extra
    of your excellent post. Additionally, I’ve shared
    your website in my social networks


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s