Can anyone tell me about onsen etiquette/tropes/connotations etc? I'm considering writing an onsen scene in my fanfic, and since I don't like referencing a culture if I don't really understand it, I need more info on it. I've had a look around online and I've read plenty of "foreigners guides" to onsen, but they're a bit thin on the culture beyond the basic do's and don'ts. I'm especially interested in mixed-gender onsen and the culture around that.
Any help is much much (much) appreciated!
I can't say much for mixed baths, as I've never done one, but I'll try to be helpful here. I think with mixed onsen, they can remain wearing towels....but I could be wrong in this regard.
Some onsen do have certain rules you must follow, like for instance, before entering the water, you must thoroughly clean yourself, and this includes washing your hair, but of course there are exceptions (I keep mine wrapped up because of the type of style I wear). Like shower and this is all public too, so if you don't shower, I'm sure many people would notice and possibly complain.
You are allowed a small courtesy towel when going into the actual onsen water, but you must never let your towel touch the water. You can fold it and leave it on the side or fold it up and set the towel atop your head.
Your must never let your hair touch the water. If you have long hair, tie it up. Also, you probably shouldn't swim around either. Just pick a spot, sit, and relax.
If you have cuts and such, you shouldn't really use the onsen and for women, if it's "that time of the month", you probably shouldn't use it either. Kinda gross, don't ya think? ><
You shouldn't stay in too long, or else you could overheat and pass out, unless you have a high tolerance for it. Most western foreigners have a difficult time coping with the temperatures of the waters since it's much hotter than what we're used to.
For some places, they ban anyone who have a tattoo. The gym I go to don't allow those with tattoos to use their facilities or their bathing facilities. Now if you're staying in like a Ryokan or something like that and you have a private onsen you can use, it probably wouldn't make a difference, but a public one, more than likely they wouldn't let you, unless you can find a way to cover it up...like with a bandage.
Tattoos are a taboo subject here. It's associated with the Yakuza (Japanese mafia) and some people still have an old-fashioned way of thinking. The younger generations and the ones coming up don't care as much, but the older generations more than likely still do, especially the super prideful ones. The younger generations understand that it's just art. Banning those with tattoos is a way to appease to them. Some places are a bit lenient with this, though, especially with foreigners since for us, tattoos don't have a negative connotation.
Okay, that's about all I can think of right off about onsen etiquette. Hope it helped a little, and sorry about my lack of knowledge dealing with mixed onsen/baths. I can do regular onsen visits, if the opportunity presents itself, but I'm still rather prudish over the idea of doing a mixed one.
Last edited by SSJ_Jup81; 22nd October 2013 at 02:49 PM.
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