Guest Blog from Intrepid Travel's Chotie Moloney

I have been dying for a Spa vacation lately. The past month has been an emotional roller coaster and I can picture nothing better than soaking myself in thermal mineral water that has been percolating below the earth's surface for a few hundred years. In fact the one phrase that has been running through my mind this week has been "SPA: Salud Per Aqua" So when Chotie's Japanese Onsen article arrived in my inbox I immediately got permission from Intrepid Travel to share it with you, my lovely, presumably overworked Beauty's Spot readers so we can all have a little virtual hadaka no tsukiai.

In Japan there is a centuries-old tradition that washes away the worries of your world and leaves you feeling completely relaxed. If you follow local etiquette your experience will be very soothing, but as Intrepid's Chotie Moloney explains, if you don't do your homework, bathing in a Japanese onsen could leave you in hot water...

In Hot Water In Japan

"Bathing in Japan is a unique experience. The popular onsen is a public bath filled with water from a natural hot spring and these indoor or outdoor facilities are scattered all over the country. Japanese people have bathed in mineral-rich hot springs for centuries, aspousing the health benefits of this national pastime.

Here are some steps to ensure etiquette is respected and bath time is enjoyed by all, but before we start, make sure you take notice of the signage to be sure if it's single or mixed-gender bathing!...

1. Bring a small towel to use as a wash cloth (yes, this is only a bit longer than your average face cloth), as well as a bath towel with you. Most onsen have free soaps and shampoos, but bring some just in case.

2. Undress yourself at the Datsuijyo (changing room). Leave your bath towel with your clothes here in the lockers or baskets provided. Embrace the naked you (swim suits are not allowed) and taking only the small towel, enter the Yokujyo (bathroom).

3. Tattoos are often associated with the Yakuza (Japanese Mafia). If you have tattoos, prepare to cover them up as a tattooed person is sometimes not allowed in public baths in Japan. And you want to blend in as much as possible.

4. Wash yourself at the Araiba. Sit on the small chairs (kindergarten size) and thoroughly wash from head to toe. The small towel is to scrub your body with soap. You must be clean and soap free to enter an onsen.

5. Walk into the bath and relax. Don't put the small towel into the water, this is placed on the head. At a constant 37 degrees Celsius (98 degrees Fahrenheit), you soak for about 15-20 minutes (if you can stand the heat), then have a quick rinse with cold water and back in for more. The average Japanese bather spends up to an hour at an onsen.

6. Before you leave, take a shower again. You are so relaxed by this stage, be careful not to fall off your pint sized washing chair!

7. Wipe your body with the small towel before returning to Datsuijyo.

8. Back in the Datsuijyo wipe yourself well with your bath towel. Put your clothes on and depart.

You are guaranteed a good night's slumber. The expression "hadaka no tsukiai" or in English "the naked relationship" is used in Japan to express a sense of deep friendship. If you take a bath with someone, that means you are already friends. It certainly helps to break down hierarchy at work, a great way to unwind from a stressful day and a fantastic social gathering for friends and family.There was an onsen in Kyoto not far from our Intrepid ryokan where the Datsuijyo and Yokujyo are located one floor apart; so you all enter the elevator in your birthday suit, with only a small towel for comfort. I didn't quite work up the nerve to visit that one!"
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