onsen

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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Just how confusing is Japanese onsen culture for a first time visitor?

Onsen etiquette can be confusing for a foreigner visiting for the first time, and there are many small rules and customs that even many Japanese people aren’t quite clear on. There aren’t usually any written instructions around the baths as it is expected that everyone will already know the basic customs surrounding communal bathing. This means that things people who have grown up in Japan take for granted, such as putting your shoes in a locker when you arrive or knowing which towels to use for what, can be hard to figure out for first-timers, and your supposedly relaxing spa break can become a little bit stressful.

Check out the video below to see how our Japan Wish competition winner Ashley navigated her first ever trip to an onsen and see if she found it relaxing…or stressful!

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Soak yourself in 100% pure hot spring water at home for less than 100 yen!

In the land of earthquakes, typhoons, blistering summers and mountains of snow in the winter, Japan’s plentiful and luxurious hot springs are Mother Nature’s way of letting us know that she doesn’t totally hate us.

But the number of true hot springs – where water naturally comes from the ground rather than being pumped in and then heated – is lower than you might imagine. Many places such as the new “hot spring” being built in Shinjuku have their water shipped in from a real hot spring source.

And now, if you live in the Kanto area, you can ship in your own hot spring water too! Why pay entry into some huge complex when you can soak in your own home bathtub away from the leering eyes of RocketNews24 journalists or tattoo-prudes. Oh, and did we mention it’s ridiculously cheap?

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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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Government begins study into tattoo bans in public baths

On 23 June the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) announced that it would be conducting a first-of-its-kind study into public bathing facilities such as onsen (hot springs) and sento (bath houses), and their rules regarding tattoos.

Visitors to Japan are often warned that if they want to visit one of Japan’s hundreds of natural springs or meticulously designed baths they can’t be inked up. But how widespread is this rule in Japan really, and is it doing more harm than good in this day and age? These are the things the JTA hopes to learn more about in the weeks to come.

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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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Tochiotome 25 invite you to a unique onsen experience in the music video for “Yu”! 【Video】

Tochigi local idol group Tochiotome 25 have once again released a music video showcasing the charms of their rural home town with “Yu” (release date: April 22). This one’s… a little different.

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Onsen in Nagano will now welcome foreigners with tattoos, as long as they patch ’em up

Many foreign visitors to Japan are curious about taking a dip in one of Japan’s many hot springs or sento public baths, but are deterred by two factors: the embarrassment of being naked in public, and the worry that even having a small tattoo – very much taboo in Japan – might result in being ejected from the premises. While the first issue is something that can be overcome with a little bravery, the second issue is undoubtedly a problem.

However, a resort inn in Nagano has now publicly stated that they will allow foreigners with small tattoos to enter, providing they cover up the offending ink with a patch.

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Japan Bucket List — 8 things you need to do to really understand Japan

Your first trip to Japan is bound to be a whirlwind visit as you try to pack so many things into a short period of time. Do go to Tokyo and see the white-gloved train pushers, the famous Shibuya scramble crossing, and many of the scenes depicted in anime and manga. Do go to Kyoto and see the shrines and temples that are simply amazing.

But as a country that has so much to offer, it can take years to really get to know and understand Japan, even when you live here. So if you want to take your understanding of Japan a step further, we’re here to suggest a few things you’ll want to experience in order to better understand Japanese culture: things that give you insight on what’s behind the Japanese way of thinking.

These experiences will help you understand who the Japanese people are, and why they act the way they do. Get ready to move from tourist to cultural expert after the jump!

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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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Make sure to visit this historical onsen once before you die, or just do it right now with Google

Nestled in the mountains of Nagano sits the Ryokan Kanaguya. It’s an inn with over two and a half centuries of history and seems to walk that fine line between quaint and extravagant. It’s also a part of the ever-growing list of bathhouses said to be the inspiration for the Ghibli classic Spirited Away.

Simply by tweeting some promotional photos of Kanaguya from its website, one user managed to net over 24,000 retweets. Needless to say, it’s an attractive holiday destination. But before you go booking a room, why not take a brief virtual tour of Kanaguya via Google Street View which appears to be well on its way to mapping the entire world inside and out.

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Check out these cool ways to enjoy hot springs in Oita, including eating and breathing them

Oita, on the eastern coast of Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, has taken to billing itself as Onsen-ken. And while that title loses a bit of its rhyming appeal once it’s translated into English, it’s hard to deny that it really is the Hot Spring Prefecture, as Oita boasts more hot springs than anywhere else in Japan.

As a matter of fact, Oita has so much geothermal water that it can get creative with its most attractive and relaxing natural resource, as shown by these unique ways locals and tourists can enjoy the prefecture’s hot springs.

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Sink or drink? Japan celebrates arrival of this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau with special wine-bath

Japan is becoming known worldwide for its natural hot springs and public bath houses. Lately, bathers have more and more soaking options with specialty baths popping up all over. We’ve seen snow-covered baths, tea baths, sake baths and herbal baths.

Every November however, a bathhouse near Tokyo has a unique 10-day wine bath to celebrate the release of France’s Beaujolais Nouveau wine.

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Audi celebrates 200,000 likes with (almost) traditional sentō mural

To celebrate 200,000 likes on Facebook, Audi commissioned sentō (public baths) artist Mizuki Tanaka to paint a mural that could be enjoyed while relaxing in the hot water of natural springs. Our photographer went to check it out.

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Recreate a Japanese ofuro in your own bathtub and support traditional craftsmen with Pocket Onsen

Few countries in the world have embraced bathing to the level that Japan has. Inspired by the many natural hot springs (onsen) found around, designers have continuously developed baths at competing inns (ryokan) and bathhouses (sento) for well over a millennium. The fruits of these labors can still be found today in the incredibly relaxing Japanese tubs often referred to as ofuro.

Iacopo Torrini is an Italian architect who works with Japanese ofuro craftsmen selling these traditional tubs all over the world. However, as you might imagine, buying handcrafted bathtubs internationally can be a pricey ordeal. Knowing this, Torrini feels he has come up with a way to affordably and accurately recreate the ofuro experience in any tub, which he calls Pocket Onsen.

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New onsen facility in the heart of Tokyo’s business district to be ready for Olympics

When you think of an onsen, what springs to mind? Tranquil steaming pools surrounded by misty mountains and bamboo groves? This is probably the the ideal image of a hot springs getaway, but there are actually over 200 onsen facilities to be found amidst the high-rise office blocks and busy roads of central Tokyo. And there’s soon to be one more to enjoy in Otemachi, right in the heart of Tokyo’s business district.

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