Men and woman bathing
Hot springs are a big part of Japanese culture. It would be
shocking to hear that there was a Japanese person that had never visited one.
The springs are split up into men's area and women's area. In
the past the men's area was considerably larger than the women's area. However, in
recent times many hot spring resorts have a larger women area. This is because the
average person taking a trip or vacation these days tends to be female. Some hot
spring resorts rotate the sex of the areas every day.
Some hot springs have coed baths, but they are not that common.
Visiting a hot spring in Japan is a must.
Men and Women baths are seperated
into different areas.
Natural and "unnatural" hot springs
Not all hot spings are natural, meaning that the source of the spring
comes from the earth. Usually the natural hot springs come from a nearby volcano and
the water has a strong sulfur smell to it. A natural hot spring is called an onsen.
Hot springs which are not from a natural source, but are
heated artificially are called sentou. A sentou
can be just as relaxing as an onsen with the exception that the
smell of sulfur is not present.
You WASH my back, I'll WASH yours!?
While washing prior to entering the springs it would not be strange if
someone offers to wash your back. This normally doesn't happen out of the blue, but
the person you have struck up a conversation with just might offer. While in America
the offer might be taken the wrong way, in Japan it is just a common courtesy.
If you have the chance, I would highly recommend that you
visit a Japanese hot springs, it is quite worth it.