Go to Tenzan Onsen!
Have you ever wanted to bathe naked with a bunch of Japanese strangers?
We didn’t either… until we got there. Tenzan is one of the few Onsen’s that allows bathers with tattoos. For those not familiar with an Onsen, it is a bathhouse where you enjoy the natural hot spas of the mountainous region of Nippon (Japan).
How to Get There
To get to Tenzan, we took a JR Shinkansen to Hakone. From Hakone Station we took Bus, Line B, and that dumped us off right into the Tenzan parking lot. A Tourist Center in the major train stations should be able to get you around no problem and even get you your tickets. A reasonable $5 entry into the hot spas.
Hakone is home to some special hiking and an excellent cable car ride. If you catch it with nice weather, you’ll be in for a treat. Anyway, back to the naked people…
They’ll escort you to your Gender specific locker room (sorry none of these multi-gender nonsense) where you’ll strip down (no bathing suits) and clean yourself before getting into the spas. These are public baths so they want to make sure you’re clean before sharing water with other people; a welcomed courtesy.
The hot mineral water is said to be so cleansing and healthy that you burn something like 300 calories just for sitting in the water. Multiple baths pepper the grounds in which to enjoy, the hot, the super hot, and the molten lava. Smack in the center is the cool tub where you go to get your body temperature back in check, and damn it feel good.
Tenzan offers private spas if you’re inclined to bathe in secrecy. They also offer massages, resting rooms, a nice cafe, and a ritzy restaurant. We had a nice dinner in the traditional restaurant that sits top of Tenzan. You sit on the floor! After a hot soak, enjoy yourself a sake! And what Japanese establishment wouldn’t be complete without a gift shop. We’ve found the Japanese people love to shop (even though they save more money than any other country per capita), so here you can buy your wares and trinkets after your bath.
*Let’s talk etiquette.* It’s intimidating to bathe naked with strangers when you haven’t experienced it before. But don’t worry, not only are Japanese people laid back, they recognize any error as a misunderstanding and don’t hold you to it – in fact, they just don’t care. You’ll receive a tiny towel referred to as a modesty towel, that you may use to cover your unmentionables as you walk around the hot spas. Once in the water, you place this towel on your head. Not a requirement, but everyone is doing it.
Taking is not just OK, it’s encouraged in the hot spas. You’ll find people playing, joking, and talking up a storm.
No bathing suits. And most places don’t allow tattoos (Tenzan is unique). No staring, and above all, you must bathe yourself before you bathe (funny).
Otherwise enjoy yourself, get in that scolding hot water, and endure an experience you’ll be telling people about for years to come. For more information such as their phone and address, Tenzan Onsen.
- Don’t worry about offending someone with cultural differences. It’s a free for all out in the bath houses.
- The towel goes on top of your head (to keep it warm) and hide your parts as you walk around if you need.
- Adults and children bathe together. USA’ers might find this odd, but it’s normal there.