Visit to a Japanese Onsen

Submitted by Brea Harris on the 2016 fall semester exchange program with Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka, Japan…

I’ve done something that as an American I never thought I would do in my life; I visited a Japanese onsen. For those who do not know what an onsen is, it is the Japanese word for public bath house. Something that will likely never successfully exist in the States is all too prominent here in Asia. When I received the message from my host mom asking if I wanted to visit, I politely tried to decline the offer by using homework as an excuse. It became clear, however, that would not work when she offered to help me with it later and asked if I would come again.
I have been trying to adopt a policy of saying “yes” to nearly anything, so with slight reluctance I acquiesced.

Three hours later, up a dangerous mountain path, we (my host mother, host brother, another exchange student and myself) arrived at the onsen. I was extremely nervous to say the least. At times, Americans can be known for being prudish and I was no exception. However, when we entered the bath house (that is separated into women’s and men’s sides) I noticed that everyone was extremely comfortable with themselves and those around them. I won’t explain in too much detail, but to draw the picture; you’re only allowed to bring a hand towel from the locker room you had to undress in to cover yourself. Mind you, this towel cannot touch the water of the onsen for sanitary reasons I suppose, so essentially you have nothing.