After a big day on Mt Madarao skiing or snowboarding, there is no better way to relax and rejuvenate than with a Madarao Onsen. But what is an Onsen and more importantly what is the proper Onsen Etiquette in Japan? On this page, we break it down for you as a simple guide for western guests.
Onsen (温泉) is the Japanese word for hot springs; quite literally, at that, since 温 on is "warm" and 泉 sen is "spring"( so translated it means "warm spring". Japan is a very volcanically active country, resulting not only in, frequent earthquakes but also an abundance of hot springs throughout the archipelago that flow into the mountainous Onsen Towns.
Onsen water is believed to have healing powers derived from its mineral content. A particular onsen may feature several different baths, each with water with a different mineral composition and varying degrees of temperature from warm to hot ( really hot, so check the temperature before submerging into the water ).
An Onsen is usually divided into separate male and female baths with a separate changing room. Men's baths are also usually color-coded blue, while women are red. Guests remove their clothes and leave them in either a locker or baskets. Upon entering the onsen guests are expected to wash their bodies and rinse themselves thoroughly before entering the hot water.
Get slowly into the bath so as not to disturb fellow bathers. Onsen guests generally bring a small towel with them to use as a washcloth. The towel can also provide a modicum of modesty when walking between the washing area and the baths. People normally set their towels off to the side of the water when enjoying the baths, or place their folded towels on top of their heads.
Onsen is generally considered a respite from the hectic pace of life and consequently, they are usually fairly quiet. However, sometimes bathers will engage in quiet conversation in this relaxed situation.
So in summary, get your gear off ( yes, you are nude with other bathers ), wash at the seated shower area, remove all soap suds etc and ease your way into the Onsen water without splashing and annoying other guests. Please keep quiet and be respectful.
If you have tattoos there may be a problem gaining entrance to some Onsen. As with many things in Japan, the locals will often take an easier line with foreigners and allow you in if the tattoos are not terribly obvious. However, that will not always be the case so don't be offended if you are denied entry (... I am tattooed and have never had a problem so just feel your way politely).
A special note for women: it's regrettable and annoying, but if you happen to be on your period, don't bother even going into an onsen bathing area. Blood plays a significant role in what is considered taboo in Japan, so it's simply, just not your time for an Onsen experience.
Also, in very rare cases elsewhere in Japan, some Onsen just deny entry to foreigners full stop. They may be very traditional villager only Onsen baths.
IIyama Onsen Guide
Iiyama has four hot springs;
Iiyama Yutaki Onsen
Madarao Kogen Onsen ( Madarao Onsen ) and
Iiyama Hokuryu Onsen
Enjoy the beautiful colours of nature throughout the four seasons, while looking at the magnificent flow of Chikuma River and the mountains around Madarao, Nozawa, and Myoko as you soak in your Onsen bath.
Located on the banks of the Chikuma River, bathers can relax and listen to the rush of the water below. The facility also offers a large lounge area, as well as a dining area serving local specialty dishes like purple rice and Miyuki pork, along with local sake.
Perched 1000 meters up on Mt. Madarao, the Madarao Kogen Hotel is home to hot spring baths fed by natural springs 600 meters below ground. The water is said to promote beautiful, moisturized skin, and keep bathers warm even after the bath. Surrounded by fresh mountain air, and offering both indoor and outdoor baths.
Madarao Onsen's natural hot springs are a great place to refresh both mind and body after a big day on the slopes.
Famous as the site of the historical Kosuge Inner Shrine, Mt. Kosuge is also home to a forest therapy road. In the midst of this abundant natural landscape, the Bunka Hokuryukan hotel sits on the banks of the area's heart-shaped Lake Hokuryu. From the hot spring facilities, guests can look out over Northern Nagano's spectacular mountain ranges and enjoy views of the Chikuma River from above.
Located a short walk from the Pegasus slopes at Togari Onsen Ski Resort, the outdoor baths are a great place to relax and enjoy views of the natural landscape. Soaking in the water can moisturize dry skin, as well as soothing away aches, pains, and soreness. In the winter, this is a great place to finish a day of skiing or boarding!
Nozawa Onsen Guide
Nozawa Onsenis about an hour’s drive from Nagano City or about 90 minutes by train/bus. It is located in the northern part of Nagano Prefecture - a rustic onsen (hot spring) village at the foot of Mount Kenashi and home to around 4,000 people. Nozawa Onsen is reputed to date back to the 8th century and has been renowned for its hot springs and traditional Inns since the Edo period.
In recent times Nozawa Onsen has also forged a reputation as a ski area with a great range of terrain and powder snow conditions.
Mainly a day-use onsen, Maguse Onsen is renowned for its outdoor bath overlooking Nagano City with the Japanese Alps in the distance. Its location on a hilltop in between the mountains of northern Nagano provides such an expansive view that people come from far and wide to soak in the bath while taking in the view.
The indoor bath is made of hinoki (Japanese cypress) which lends a simple, natural contrast to the outdoor one which is made of cut stone.
Shibu Onsen was a long time ago called Hirao Onsen. It originated in the year when priests from temples in Kyoto discovered healing effects of local hot springs and have been coming over here regularly. The powerful Takeda Shingen leader of Soto sect was using Shibu Onsen's hot springs for healing his men after long battles. In the Edo period (1600 - 1868) Shibu Onsen was used as a relaxation Spa area by Samurais of the Sanada Clan.
Shibu Onsen street is a very famous narrow onsen street surrounded with ryokan hotels next to each other and old architecture. People are strolling down the street wearing kimono or yukata and traditional Japanese sandals(geta). They are walking from bath to bath, stopping in souvenir shops or bars. I recommend this to everybody, to be a part of this real Japanese atmosphere.
Here is a place you can experience nostalgic Japanese spa town
Many ryokan hotels have a history of more than 400 years
2 km from Yudanaka station, 2.5 hours from Tokyo - Travel info
5min. to get to the Monkey park by bus (+ Walking path) or 40 min on foot
there are 35 onsen ryokans along one street + 9 public hot spring bath-houses along the street, what makes unique old Japanese hot spring town atmosphere
Many choices of accommodation depending on your budget and expectations - from B&B to the ryokan with hot spring bath on your balcony and top quality kaiseki traditional dinner