Hello, this is TORA.

Most Japanese people love onsens (a spa or hot spring).
They are becoming essential places to visit for overseas travelers too.
There are more than 3000 of these Japanese onsens, which have completely overwhelmed foreigners with their allure.

What is an onsen?

Onsens are one element of Japan’s unique culture, somewhat akin to sento bathhouses.
There are spas in other countries, but they are very different from those in Japan.

Incidentally, in Japan, springs are considered to be onsens if they emit water and gases with natural qualities that differ from regular water.
A great many visitors to Japan want to enjoy a stay and a meal at a hot spring hotel.

Even seen from an international perspective, a major purpose of a Japanese onsen is entertainment.
In Europe and elsewhere, hot springs are often used as places of medical treatment.

However, onsens designed for entertainment are proliferating rapidly. To some people,
they may even be mistaken for theme parks. (There are actually onsen theme parks such as Ofuro cafe utatane in Saitama and Spa LaQua in Tokyo.)

Also, there is an overwhelming number of people in Japan who love onsens. The reason for that must be largely due to their use since ancient times.

The history of onsens

The history of onsens is said to date back to the Stone Age. In ancient times they were called wonder waters, magic waters, and the water of gods.
At first only nobles could enter them, but common people were also allowed from the Edo period.

It is said that from that point on they quickly became places of entertainment. And these days, onsens are used for holding banquets and for tourism.
The fact that most tourist hotels these days have an onsen, is reflective of Japanese people’s conception of them as a form of entertainment.

Japan’s unique and wonderful culture has many more charms.

The allure of the onsen

Take, for instance, the various ways there are to bathe. You can soak your feet in an “ashiyu” foot spa, lie down in a “neyu”, or enjoy a “hyotan” (gourd) bath, a “sunayu” sand bath, or be pelted by water in an “utaseyu”. There are so many varieties.

For reasons concerning safety and religious sensitivities I cannot recommend this, but there is actually also “insen” (which involves simply drinking the onsen water…).

Furthermore, onsen water is used not just for bathing but also in food products. For example, many people might already know of this but there is a delicacy called an onsen tamago. As an egg boiled in hot spring water, it is a very simple dish but it is quite delicious. There are also such dishes as “jigokumushi” and “onsen natto”.

In terms of the medical use of onsens, they can be “indicated”, which means they can be used as treatment, or “contraindicated” which means they cannot.
So if you are planning to use an onsen for medical reasons, please consult a doctor first.

Finally

How about that? I trust that your knowledge of onsens has deepened by reading this article.
With this, I hope you will derive even greater pleasure from Japan’s onsens in the future.

That’s all for today.

Otsukaresama deshita