hot springs

Are these normal Japanese things weird to you? 10 things that might surprise you when you visit Japan

When traveling to a foreign country for the first time, no matter how well-prepared you are, there’s sure to be a lot you’ll be surprised by! Let’s take a look at 10 things in Japan that might surprise you when you first hop off the plane.

With these in mind, you can enjoy your first trip to Japan even more!

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TV program featuring hot men visiting hot springs to release DVD and photobook this month

Alright ladies, so you’ve spent all day at the office, or out running errands, or cleaning up house and cooking for everyone and taking care of the kids, or maybe even all of the above. Now you want to reward yourself, unwind, and relax in front of the TV or with a good book. Why not let this group of good-looking fellows help you recuperate?

After all, that was the thought behind the creation of the TV show Men’s Onsen, and what could be more rewarding than watching this handsome bunch, clad in nothing but towels, taking a dip in one of Japan’s many hot springs?

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Anime studio’s new Tokyo office building has the ultimate amenity: a natural hot spring!

There aren’t a lot of cushy jobs in the anime industry. Aside from the pressure of having to please fickle fans and meet strict deadlines, most animators in Japan earn a pitiful salary.

Still, almost all anime professionals are also fans, and at the end of the day, being able to contribute to the art form that they love must be worth something. Plus, the employees of one particular anime studio get to enjoy the ultimate after-work perk: a dip in the hot spring that was found in their office building!

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It’s that time of year again… when we get to see giant rodents soak blissfully in a hot bath!

In Japan, as many of our readers will no doubt be aware, we love to soak in relaxing hot springs. What we also love to do is to see giant rodents taking a hot bath!

Yes, it’s that time of year again when the capybaras at the Izu Shaboten Park get to enjoy their very own hot spring onsen. It’s been a tradition at the park now for over 30 years, and as far as we can tell, the public hasn’t tired of seeing the rodents looking blissful and relaxed in the warm water.

This year, the bathing ritual of the furry creatures will once again be delighting park visitors as the “Original Capybara Outdoor Hot Bath (Ganso Capybara no Roten-buro)” season begins November 21. Read More

Love Japanese hot springs? At Nakadake Onsen in Hokkaido, you can dig your own!

Two of the best ways to experience the pleasures of rural Japan are a long hike and a leisurely dip in a hot spring, or onsen, as they’re called in Japanese. With the country’s chains of volcanic mountains, there are plenty of spots where you where you can do both in the same day, with onsen resorts often not too far from where mountain trails start or end.

But instead of booking a room in an inn with a hot spring, you can do something even better in this part of Hokkaido by digging your own onsen!

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Tochigi hot spring pyramid first in the world to let you bathe in cosmic energy as well as water

The Egyptian pyramids stand strong in the scorching heat of the desert, as they have for over 4,500 years. It is said that the techniques that went into building them were well beyond those of human civilization at the time. They are mysteries wrapped inside of enigmas that continue to fascinate us from afar.

And apparently there is also a pyramid in Tochigi Prefecture, which really cuts down on the travel expenses for those of us in Japan wanting to bask in their wonder. One such spendthrift adventurer was RocketNews24’s own Masanuki Sunakoma, who went to investigate.

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Oita lures travelers with wonderful montage of synchronized hot spring bathing 【Video】

Japan may be a small country in terms of area, but it certainly makes up for it with 47 distinct prefectures that have their own vibrant personalities. Prefectures like Tokyo and Osaka dominate with their big city lifestyles, while Kyoto and Nara rely on their richly preserved history. Some have festivals that have survived for hundreds of years, others have geological formations that make them stand out or new attractions that you can’t find anywhere else.

For prefectures to separate themselves from the rest and showcase what makes them special, they have to do something grand. In Oita Prefecture, this means presenting their world-famous hot springs with a synchronized swimming team in what can only be known as “synchronized bathing”.

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Turn your cat’s toilet trips into day-spa visits with this adorable “onsen” litter box

While dogs have no trouble emptying their bladders and bowels on busy streets in broad daylight, proudly locking eyes with you as they let rip right there on the pavement, members of the feline world are much more reserved when it comes to answering the call of nature. Even in the comfort of their own homes, kitties need their own space to do their business; no self-respecting cat would want the eyes of their human on them while they’re trying to go.

So it’s no wonder this clever new idea is getting a lot of attention in Japan. It’s the cat onsen, which houses your pet’s kitty litter box and comes complete with a cute spa-style noren curtain to provide some much needed privacy. Once your cat finishes using the kitty litter “sand bath” inside, they’ll emerge looking as fresh as a daisy!

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Japan’s newest hot spring springs forth…from the center of Kobe!

In movies, there’s never anything good hidden in the earth under a structure. It’s all Native American burial grounds, Egyptian mummies, and other assorted other corpses of non-specific ethnicities.

In real life, though, there are all sorts of desirable things waiting beneath the surface, such as oil and gold. An excavation crew in Kobe was looking for something just as good as those two valuable commodities, though: a hot spring, and they found one right in the heart of the city.

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Chinese tourist in Taiwan does some post-hot spring shopping dressed in just a towel 【Video】

At any time of year, a nice, long soak in a hot spring will leave your muscles relaxed and your skin feeling smooth. It’ll also leave your body feeling hotter than normal for some time after you get out, though, and while that’s part of the appeal in the winter, in the summer it’s just an unpleasant side effect of bathing in geothermally heated water.

That’s why in some parts of Japan that are famous for their hot springs you’ll see travelers walking around town wearing the thin, cotton kimono provided by their hotels as they take in the sites after a bath. A Chinese tourist at a hot spring resort in Taiwan seems to have had a similar idea, except he was apparently much more concerned with cooling down than staying covered up, as he decided do a little shopping wearing nothing but a towel.

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The biggest “natural” hot spring spa in Tokyo is being built now, but what is its “secret?”

Do you love hot springs and spas? How about Tokyo? If so, we have good news for you! A new onsen (hot spring) spa, the largest in Tokyo, is currently under construction right here in beautiful Shinjuku! Even better, it’s set to open at the end of July.

We were so excited about this ginormous new relaxation spot, we sent a writer to check out the new spa, called Thermae-yu, to see how it’s looking these days. Along the way we learned a certain secret that’s not actually a secret, but may disappoint die-hard onsen fans.

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It’s naked time: An American’s first onsen experience 【Video】

Going to an onsen hot spring is one of those quintessentially Japanese experiences that every visitor to the country should have. But is, sadly, an activity many westerners choose to skip for a number of reasons. Coming from a culture where taking a bath with another person is something you really don’t do beyond early childhood, the thought of walking around naked and sitting in a huge bath with a bunch of naked strangers can seem a bit unappealing. I myself was in Japan for two years before I finally decided to take the plunge, but once I did, I was hooked.

Our Japanese writers here at RocketNews24 decided to take a their American pal along for his first onsen experience at the famous Kusatsu Onsen. Find out what he thought of his first ever hot spring soak after the jump.

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Mixing anime with travel — the ultimate girls’ Evangelion trip is happening in May!

If you have even a passing interest in Japanese pop culture, you’re probably aware that Neon Genesis Evangelion has been a long-standing hit anime series with a huge fan base. It’s been 18 years since it originally finished airing on TV, but the anime still has a strong following, with many female fans. Now, Japanese travel agency Musee Travel has come up with the perfect break from reality for such female Evangelion lovers — the “Evangelion Hakone Trip for Girls“!

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Six outdoor Japanese hot springs you can visit right now (with Google Street View)

Almost everyone loves soaking in an outdoor hot spring bath, called rotenburo in Japanese. The combination of soothing natural mineral water and being buck naked outside is enough to wash all your stress away. Just look at those little capybara in the photo above. Don’t they look so relaxed?

If you ever have the chance to visit Japan, we highly recommend you take a dip in a rotenburo. But if you aren’t able to make the long journey over to this wonderful country right away, might we suggest taking a virtual tour of six outdoor hot springs in Japan?

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Our Japanese staff members pick the top places in Japan they’d like to visit again someday

Figuring out where to go during your stay in Japan can seem like an insurmountable task. For first-time visitors to the country, there are so many famous places to visit that the task of deciding becomes overwhelming. On the other hand, if you’ve been living in Japan for a while, you’re probably tired of all the crowded, touristy places and would like to go somewhere off-the-beaten path.

To help out our readers who are struggling with this internal dilemma, we’ve asked three reporters from our Japanese-language RocketNews24 team to share with us the top three places in Japan they’d definitely like to visit again someday. These three have had ample opportunities to travel to various places around the country and experience the local scenes in the name of eclectic journalism, so you can think of them as seasoned experts on the matter. Let’s see what little-known travel recommendations they have waiting for us!

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Pot-sticker paradise, hot-spring hotel just outside of Tokyo makes for a tasty retreat

Ask a Japanese person to give some examples of Chinese food, and they’ll likely reply with things like chaahan (fried rice) and the quintessential gyoza (pot-stickers). With their crispy fried outsides and juicy, flavorful insides, you can’t go wrong with gyoza, and many would say that Chinese food chain GYOZANOMANSYU (餃子の満州), based in the Kanto region of Japan, is the leader of them all.

Those wishing to take the gyoza experience a bit further can visit the hot-spring hotel Toumeikan in Gunma Prefecture, managed by GYOZANOMANSYU, and for a mere 5,900 yen per night (roughly US$59) you can stay in one of their cozy Japanese-style rooms, take a relaxing soak in the onsen hot springs, and get your fill at their breakfast buffet. Located deep in the mountains of Gunma, yet within a two- to three-hour drive from Tokyo, makes this a great place for a weekend getaway. Albeit one involving lots of garlic and chives.

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English hot spring manners poster is so thorough, even Japanese people are learning from it

With the invention of indoor plumbing and bathtubs (not really news to anyone, we’d hope), the traditional public bath houses and hot springs of Japan are now used for relaxing getaways more than actual hygienic necessity. Heck, even capybara soak in hot springs to relax!

Hot springs, known as onsen in Japanese, are also becoming popular with foreign visitors, at least those brave enough to bare it all in front of strangers. For health and safety reasons, there are quite a few rules to pay attention to when soaking in a public bath. A very nicely designed etiquette poster, which recently surfaced on TripAdvisor, is very thorough and is even teaching Japanese people a thing or two about the bathing experience!

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We visit the Guinness World Record-holding oldest hotel in the world – established 705 A.D.!

Keiunkan Inn in Hayakawa, Yamanashi Prefecture is famous for holding the Guinness World Record for being “The oldest hotel in the world”. Established in 705 A.D., it boasts such notable former guests as daimyo Takeda Shingen, shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, and numerous emperors of Japan.

The inn itself is located in the southern alps of Yamanashi Prefecture, nestled in lush valleys in the very heart of nature. It’s the perfect location for escaping from the hustle and bustle of city life. What’s more, the inn is built upon prime hot springs ground, which means guests are able to enjoy numerous open-air and communal hot spring baths. Each room’s shower, bath and sink facilities are fed by pure hot spring water, which is neither treated nor heated by any artificial means. In fact, except for the toilets, the entire inn uses the hot springs water in its daily running, which makes it a very special and luxurious place to visit.

Our reporter, Yoshio, decided to book a stay in “the oldest hotel in the world” in order to share his experiences with the good readers of RocketNews24. Read on for many, many gorgeous photos of his trip!

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Hello Kitty hot spring lets you fill two spots at once on your Japan bingo card

For most travelers in Japan, the highlight of a trip to the hot springs is the rotenburo, or open-air bath. The idea of an alfresco dip is so appealing that drawing visitors to your hot spring inn or hotel becomes several degrees harder if you don’t have outdoor tubs.

But you shouldn’t write off indoor hot springs entirely, as they boast a couple of advantages. Having a roof over your head makes them a good choice for a rainy day, and being climate controlled means less shivering once you step out of the water. Plus, if you’re heading to Gunma Prefecture, soon one indoor hot spring will give you the chance to soak in the company of Hello Kitty.

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Capybara hot springs are back: Rodent-friendly onsen now available all over Japan

Sure, monkeys bathing in natural hot springs are cute and famous and all, but they’re just monkeys, not giant rodents! Who doesn’t want to watch the world’s biggest rodents bathe in hot water? No one, that’s who. Thankfully, the annual capybara hot spring (onsen) event at Izu Shaboten Park will reopen on December 20!

But wait! After 32 years, the capybara at Izu Shaboten Park in Shizuoka finally got word out to their rodent relatives at the other zoos and now animal parks all over Japan have hot water baths for their capybara.

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