Onsen (hot spring) bathing is something you should enjoy at least once when travelling in Japan. However, many hot springs and public baths do not look favorably on tattoos. So, this article will introduce five carefully-selected, tattoo friendly hot springs to visit!
Why Are Tattoos a No-Go at so Many Japanese Hot Springs?
In many countries, tattoos are recognized as a fashion choice and are a normal part of life. However, in Japan, tattoos were once a form of punishment, and even up until recently they have been avoided due to their associations with antisocial groups. This is why so many hot springs and public baths, where it is common to be unclothed, refuse entry to people with tattoos. The Japanese word for tattoo is "irezumi" (入れ墨). Sometimes Western-style tattoos are referred to with the English loan word "tattoo" (タトゥー), while "irezumi" is used instead for traditional Japanese-style tattoos. Generally speaking, however, these two words mean the same thing.
1. Hottarakashi Onsen (Yamanashi)
This popular open-air bathing facility offers an unbroken view of Mt. Fuji, the tallest and most beautiful mountain in Japan. The natural hot spring water that fills its baths is highly alkaline, and is renowned for giving bathers smooth, beautiful-looking skin. Bask in the luxury of gazing out at Mt. Fuji through the rising steam as you bathe.
Cost: Adults 800 JPY, Children (elementary school age and under) 400 JPY
2. Kurone Iwaburo (Shizuoka)
The Izu Peninsula is a popular tourist spot renowned for its beautiful natural scenery and wealth of hot spring areas. Kurone Iwaburo, located in Hokkawa Onsen, Higashiizucho, has been gaining popularity for being an open-air onsen that overflows with rustic charm. This rock hot spring is situated so close to the ocean that you may even think that you can feel the spray of the waves! You'll love bathing in an onsen while taking in the fresh salty air.
Cost: 600 JPY. Entry is free for those staying at inns around Hokkawa Onsen.
3. Tsubame Onsen Ougon no Yu (Niigata)
Located in Myoko Kogen, an area that is gaining popularity as one of Japan’s best highland resorts, Tsubame Onsen Ougon no Yu is situated in a forested area away from the main onsen town. Within its separate stone baths for men and women, the natural spring water flows luxuriously from its source, appearing pure white in color thanks to the natural spring water’s mineral content ("yu-no-hana" in Japanese). Feel the breeze from the highland as you reach a state of pure relaxation in these hot springs.
4. Jigokudani Onsen Korakukan (Nagano)
Jigokudani Onsen Korakukan is a hot spring inn located directly next to Jigokudani Yaen Koen (Snow Monkey Park), which is famous for the wild monkeys that bathe in the open-air onsen there. This inn’s open-air and indoor baths are available to the public as well as their overnight guests, so anyone can enjoy bathing at this hidden gem. You might even be able to enjoy the sight of a wild monkey approaching as you soak in the baths!
Cost: Adults 600 JPY (incl. tax), Children 300 JPY (incl. tax)
5. Shirahama Onsen Saki no Yu (Wakayama)
Shirahama Onsen in Wakayama is famous for standing alongside Dogo Onsen in Ehime and Arima Onsen in Hyogo as one of Japan’s three oldest onsen spots. Located in this historic onsen town, Saki no Yu is a scenic open-air onsen that's so close to the Pacific Ocean, it seems as though the spray of the ocean waves could reach it. This onsen offers a gorgeous view of the ocean through the steam of the baths, with the view at sunset being so beautiful that it may take your breath away.
Cost: General (3 years old and above) 500 JPY
Tattoo friendly onsen and public baths are still not very common in Japan, so if you have any baths you want to visit, it is recommended to confirm with them in advance!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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