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How to take a Japanese Bath at Ryokan

Hikage Onsen Hot springs
Onsen spa at Hikage Onsen, Akita

In most Ryokan (Japanese style inns), there are one or two of Daiyokujou, which is a large communal bathing area. The Ryokan might have smaller personal tubs too. When you want to take a bath at Daiyokujou, remember to bring the bath towel and the hand towel from your room that was provided by Ryokan staff. At the bath, all soap and shampoo are provided.

The Yukata that you have been wearing in the Ryokan can also be used as your bathrobe. It is very convenient to put on your Yukata when you go to Daiyokujou for bathing. 

Daiyokujou is a communal place where people come and go freely. Since not everyone is perfect, it is recommended not to bring precious belongings to the bathing area, and it is best to leave them (in a safe) in your room. Or, ask the hotelier to keep your key at the front counter. You may also use a small safety locker provided in the bathing area, depending on the Ryokan you stay in.

When to take a bath at a Ryokan

The bathing area is usually not available all day or night. The Ryokan staff will inform you when the bathing room is available, or you can ask at the front desk.

The bathing rooms are not unisex; they are separated into male and female sections. The following symbols show the bath for women and for men. Japanese people are very modest and will be offended if you enter the wrong area. To avoid embarrassment, make sure before going inside of the bathing area or just ask your Ryokan staff to show you the right entrance.

You can also recognize by color: Red for Women, Blue for Men

Datsuijo or Dressing Room

In the bathing area, there is a section (a room) called Datsuijo (Dressing room) where you are to take off your clothes and leave them. Put your clothes in a certain place and leave them there. Do not worry about them going to missing as Ryokan staff will be there. You are only to take a hand towel to the bathing room.

Interiors of a Japanese Bath

The Japanese style bathroom is composed of two sections; the actual bathing area, and a section to wash your body. Please cleanse and wash your body before you go to the bathing area. The Japanese bath is really for relaxation and to partake in the symbolic act of cleansing, more so than practical concerns of washing. 

Onsen sta at Miyamotoso, Chichibu
Private spa at Wakatake-no Sho, Kinugawa

The Ritual of the Japanese Bath

You are only to go inside the bathtub after you washed your body. Firstly, you are to rinse your body with hot water. Washing beforehand helps to keep the water in bathtub clean since some baths receive their water from natural hot springs....

The rinsing and washing of your body with hot water also acclimatizes you to the temperature of the bathtub, which can be very hot. It is not advisable to jump into the water like diving into a swimming pool. Please use discretion.

Please do not put the hand towel into the bathtub water. Most people place the towel on their head. And remember, do not use any soap or shampoo or other skin cleansers in bathtub either. 

When you want to leave the communal bathing area or a smaller tub, go out of the bathtub and wash your body again. If you have not already washed hair with soap, please do, but always wash your body again. Please wash off all the soap on your body too. 

And then, go into the bathing area or tub one more time. After a quick soak, get out of the bathtub, cleanse yourself with a shower of hot water—this part of the ritual of the Japanese bath.

Do not pull out the drain plug of the bathtub. Just leave the bathroom and go back to your room.

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