Onsen (温泉), the natural volcanic hot springs of Japan, are synonymous with Japanese culture. Dating back more than 3000 years, Onsen represents the act of connecting with nature, and other people, while cleansing and purifying the body.
With millions of people visiting Onsens each year, the relaxation and health benefits of the Onsen tradition are widely recognized.
It is said that Japanese samurai used hot springs to heal their wounds, and that many others incorporated daily rituals of Onsen to help wash away sins.
To this day, the hot springs, which are rich in minerals, are said to carry healing properties for a wide variety of ailments and disease.
Across Japan, there are thousands of hot springs—both man-made and naturally-occurring. Many of the modern Onsen facilities are in hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts and mansions. However, there are many more natural Onsen located amongst nature.
Although Onsen is a place that people enjoy with their partners or family, it is believed that through Onsen, strangers become friends.
Before entering the Onsen, there is a strict etiquette that must be observed. From tattoo bans, separated baths and cleansing your body prior to entering the Onsen, to using a modesty towel when not in the water and removing shoes at the entrance, the rules must be followed.
Aside from the legendary healing properties offered at the Onsen, another key feature of the tradition is the food that typically compliments the Onsen, as many Onsen enforce strict eating protocols.
Guests are recommended to avoid the Onsen if they are feeling full, or have consumed beverages. Typical Onsen food usually consists of Wagashi ((和菓子) and Macha, which is light, easy to digest, and can be served on arrival before the Onsen, or after dinner. Should guests stay on for dinner, a set menu would be served, along with traditional Japanese food such as tsuke mono and sashimi.
If you can’t experience Onsen in Japan, there are a handful of great bathing houses and spas in Dubai. So, make a day of it, and pop in to Atisuto for the perfect meal to accompany your version of Onsen.