Going to the onsen has become one of my favorite things to do to relax. For those who do not know what an onsen is, it’s a Japanese term for a hot spring. There are many onsens throughout Japan because of the active volcanoes. They are thought to have healing powers from the minerals that flow through them. Fortunately, there are several onsen in Nikko for me to go to. 🙂
The first time I thought about going to an onsen, it made me a little nervous. A traditional onsen is more of a public bath. Most have separate bathing areas for men and women because … you bathe naked. That’s right, naked! I think you now know why it made me nervous. In my head I could tell myself that I’d be walking naked in front of people I’d most likely never see again but actually getting myself to do it was a different story. Luckily the first time I went, I was able to make reservations at a private onsen. There, each person was given a private room with a private bath. Phew!
The next time, I wasn’t so lucky. Andrew decided to take me to one he had gone to a couple of times with his teammates. He gave me a brief explanation of what the women’s onsen might look like but I was pretty much on my own. We walked in, took our shoes off, and went our separate ways. Call me modest but I could feel myself blushing already. There was only one thing saving me, it was dark out. Inside, the locker and showering rooms were empty. I undressed and showered as quickly as possible. When I walked outside to the bath, there were only a couple older women sitting at the far end. I could barely make them out on the stone rocks, so I assumed if I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me. Looking around, the onsen was fairly large. It was probably a little smaller than a pool at a gym. The bath was made by huge stones surrounded by trees and bushes. On one end the water flowed in from the rocks and the other end had an area of stone seats along with a wooden roof. Right in the middle was a huge stone sculpture that resembled a rat type animal. I could finally take a deep breath knowing I was at least somewhat covered when I was in the water. It was the most relaxing 30 minutes I’ve had in a long time. The bath was hot and the sounds of the water and view of the stars were incredible.
Of course I couldn’t take any pictures in the onsen. But I could take pictures afterwards of the amazing fried chicken, or karaage, with rice and a tall glass of beer!
Overall, the experience was enjoyable. Since then, we’ve gone back a couple of times. Each time it has been dark out and thankfully not busy. Hopefully I’ll get used to the nakedness because it’s one of the most calming and tranquil things I’ve done.