I’ve got rather behind in my postings recently (house move happening – sorry) but today’s is all about Japanese onsen and how to do it right (are you naked or not? What do you do with that blasted hand towel?). I am not sure I *quite* mastered it when we were over there at Easter….but here’s my take on how to get by.
When we were in Niseko, we stayed in the ski-in, ski-out Hilton in Niseko village equipped with many things, but what I was most excited about was their onsen (UK readers, onsen is a sort of hot spring, strictly separated in to men/women). A Japanese tradition, there is quite a lot of etiquette involved, as you might imagine.
Fail #1 was turning up in my swimming costume; (puritanical English girl that I am) I just felt that everyone was kidding when they said you had to go starkers and I figured it was better to have to strip off than arrive naked when you weren’t meant to be.
I also failed by not bringing the right sort of towel. You need your spa towel – essentially a hand-towel-sized thing that people seem to half-heartedly cover up with; no sooner than they’ve dangled it around their private parts, they then whack it on their heads. I didn’t really get it so I cast my cares to the wind and left it in the locker room.
Cost Centre #1 was a useful spa companion being at just the right height – if she stood in front of me – to cover up my tummy, which was looking distinctly more round than flat after too many bowls of cha soba.
Oh, and don’t forget to wash both before and afterwards. They have wooden stools you crouch on in front of a mirror (above) and even a wooden pail. All very milkmaid and really rather cool; I felt like I was in a Vermeer painting.
There’s an inside and an outside element; the outside was beautiful against the snowy backdrop and had a carp pond in front of it that the Cost Centre and I tried to initially get in to (oops). Icy cold, we didn’t get more than our big toes in before yelping (not good etiquette – rule number four: talking should be no more than a whisper).
So, an osen-virgin no more, all you need to take in with you is a small child. Forget the towel. And stay away from the fish.