My First Onsen — From Culture Shock to Fantastic Experience

The first thing we did when we arrived at the onsen facility was to remove our shoes and place it in the locker. Then, we put our bags in the lockers. When we arrived in the changing room, we were all surprised because the room was full of naked women! All of them!! No joke.

“So, do we really have to get naked too??”

Both my dorm mates from Vietnam and I were stunned as this was our first time. While everyone was naked, taking their clothes off, or putting their clothes on, we removed our clothes in a private room. Afterwards, we went out with a small towel covering only our private parts. We thought that what we did was funny since it seemed very normal to the others.

Onsen
Onsen
Next, we headed to the shower area, which looked like a salon lined up with wooden stools. Each station was equipped with a shower head and a mirror.

For hygienic purposes, it was necessary to take a shower and clean yourself up before you dip yourself in the onsen bath. This is to avoid the contamination of the onsen bath with dirt.

For onsen etiquette, here’s an interesting post. After cleaning ourselves up, we walked together naked going to the onsen bath. There were three onsen pools — the first one has 41 degrees Celsius water temperature, the second has 37 degrees Celsius, and the other one has 27 degrees. We immersed ourselves in the hottest onsen bath first.

At first, it was very hot but as you dip slowly, your body will get used to it. While being soaked in the onsen bath, we couldn’t help but look at other guests as they confidently walked naked without covering their private parts. This is something that was very shocking to us.

Of course, we were very careful not to stare at them and without being obvious, as we don’t want them to get offended. It was just it was our first time and we’re in shock. From there, we couldn’t help but envy their flawless skin. Japanese people are known to often go on an onsen bath. It is one of their obsessions and their #1 secret to a beautiful smooth and perfect skin.

There were times that when I walked naked, hopping from pool to other facilities like sauna or steam bath, the Japanese people would stare at me. Were they staring at me because I’m an Asian foreigner or because of my stretch mark? Or was it because my hips were too big? What?

Anyway, I really didn’t mind the attention that I got because there were some women in the onsen taught me how to be comfortable in my own skin. There were women who had visible c-section stitches, leg cellulite, sagging boobs, unshaved armpits, excessive pubic hairs, wrinkled butts, yet it didn’t bother them.

Japanese onsen was definitely an eye-opening experience.

It was the kind of experience that renews yourself and ultimately boosts your self-confidence. Every woman, especially those with serious body image issues, should experience bathing in an onsen at some point in their life. Onsen is also great place to socialize and get to know your friends.

ONSEN by John G. Cramer III. Copyright 2003. All Rights Reserved.
ONSEN by John G. Cramer III. Copyright 2003. All Rights Reserved.
I had the opportunity to chat with my two dorm mates and I found out that the reason why they are in Japan was because of the Piso Fare. I was amazed that Cebu Pacific is a popular airline even in Vietnam. Later on, we began being shameless of our bodies and we walked around naked.

After a long and refreshing soak in the onsen bath, we finally decided to leave the onsen area as our shuttle service would be arriving in minutes. When I took a shower, I noticed that my facial pores were much smaller and my zits calmed down. I felt that the waters from the hot springs hydrated and rejuvenated my skin. Because of my pleasant first experience, I vowed to go to the onsen bath on a regular basis.

My first onsen was in Benifuji-No-Yu Hot springs near Mt. Fuji. This post is the continuation of my Kawaguchiko solo backpacking journey.