Foreign nudists flock to Gunma hot spring resort

Where is the most famous hot spring in Japan, where naked foreigners wade in the mixed-sex “roten” (outdoor) baths?

It’s Takaragawa Onsen located in the renowned Minakami hot spring village in Gunma, a 150-minute drive from Tokyo. The facility boasts 4 open-air baths in its vast property, of which 3 are “konyoku” (mixed bathing). A facility staff member comments, “There isn’t a single day that we don’t have foreign customers. But they walk everywhere naked and it’s quite embarrassing.”

A Caucasian couple appears. The naked man, with a can of beer in one hand, is already looking tipsy while the woman has herself wrapped in a towel that still exposes her breasts and buttocks.

A frequent visitor from Tokyo in his 50s describes the scene. “It seems they feel less inhibited when there are more fellow nudists. Even the women who come covered in towels – they get naked in no time at all.”

Two customers from Saitama in their 40s, who said this was their third visit to the onsen, were obviously enjoying the sight. “This is about the only place where you can have a close encounter with naked blond-haired women. It appears that the hair on the head may be blond but the color below could be different,” laughed one.

Since when did this remote onsen resort become a paradise for foreigners?

Yoshio Ono, president of Osenkaku, which manages Takaragawa Onsen, explains that there had been many foreign customers from before, such as Philippe Troussier, former coach to the Japanese national soccer team. “However, the number of foreign customers has increased from late last year, and there are weekdays when over 70% of our guests are from overseas. They’re well-mannered too,” he says.

According to research conducted by an international tour information company, Takaragawa Onsen has been chosen in Spain as the third most popular Japanese tour spot. In other countries as well, this facility is ranked as the most popular hot spring resort.

But there is another reason why, besides the popularity among foreigners, this phenomenon of naked foreigners walking everywhere is attracting so much public attention.

When searching on the Internet by typing in TAKARAGAWA ONSEN in English, numerous nudist sites show up. For example, one website named “Nudist Resort” has a message board with a posted comment referring to the facility as “convenient with explanations provided in English.”
It can be speculated that such information is spreading across nudist communities around the world – hence the flocking of nudists to Takaragawa Onsen.

  • 0

    ronaldk

    I predict a tsunami of new customers at this resort. Wouldn't mind taking a dip myself.

  • 0

    Sarge

    "they walk everywhere naked"

    "they get naked in no time at all"

    "this phenomenon of naked foreigners walking everywhere"

    Hee hee!

  • 0

    LoveUSA

    "they walk everywhere naked"

    "they get naked in no time at all"

    "this phenomenon of naked foreigners walking everywhere"

    Hee hee!

    aren't you too excited Sarge?

  • 0

    Altria

    A hot spring where you don't have to wear bathers? Imma have to check this out!

  • 0

    boitoi

    i tried mixed onsen a few times, most nekkid women are obasan in their 40s 50s 60s, and the rest are ojisan. not that much to see.

  • 0

    zurcronium

    This is a beautiful setting and has very strong healing waters. When I went there the problem was drunk salary men, there were just a few foreigners.

    Best time to go is the winter now I guess, then the europeans wont be wandering around naked.

  • 0

    Beelzebub

    When somebody back home asks me what it's like to go to a kon'yoku onsen in Japan, I just tell him or her, "No BIG deal!"

  • 0

    TokyoGas

    It appears that the hair on the head may be blond but the color below could be different,” laughed one.

    LOL

  • 0

    Mittsu

    More stereotypical nonsense. Collar and cuffs don't match - how thrilling! Foreigners drink beer and get tipsy - wow! (J blokes never do that). Foreigners can be well behaved - really? Mixed bathing in Japan is a yawn - better to go to nudist beaches in Europe if you want to cop a crafty peek.

  • 0

    bdaniel08

    TokyoGas/ It appears that the hair on the head may be blond but the color below could be different,” laughed one. LOL

    So it is exactly the same with 80% of japanese ( with their blond and brown hair) young women !

  • 0

    womanforwomen

    Boooring. Besides the naked obasanas and ojisans, yes, the microbes are a concern. No way, I would want anything alien on my skin.

  • 0

    cadmium

    How about we change the title to Foreign tattooless nudists...

  • 0

    smithinjapan

    Well, if it makes people happy in a naked, frolicking sense, all the power to them. I think I'll pass... for now. :)

  • 0

    soldave

    Why is it embarrassing? Or is it because they are foreigners that it's embarrassing?

  • 0

    dr_jones

    I hope this doesn't become a second Mallorca, heh!

    "with a can of beer in one hand,"

    Ugh, seems it's very well on the way to become Mallorca!

  • 0

    nurse13

    Some of the comments on the article were funny. Stereotypes at its best.

  • 0

    Lamborghini

    Last thing I want to see is Naked 外国人.

  • 0

    Makkun70

    I'm with lambchop on this, that's the last thing I need to see at an onsen, it's bad enough bumping into you guys in the street, but naked, no thanks..

  • 0

    LFRAgain

    The one thing I do take issue with is that these foreign nudists seem to be confusing Japanese communal bathing customs with an open license to wander around stark naked. Even in communal bathing in Japan, there is a modicum of modesty observed at most places, indoor or out, and a person's "parts" are usually strategically or discreetly covered with a small towel.

    I suspect - but cannot prove - that the boldness these foreigners exhibit at this onsen is spurred by the all-to-frequent superiority complex many foreigners seem to develop in Japan, a problem stemking from and compounded by a Japanese propensity to not say anything, even in the face of something simply outrageous. IMO, these nudists are taking the Japanese desire to preserve the harmony of a situation and mistaking it with implied consent, which woulb be very wrong.

    If anything, the nudists are being highly disrespectful of their hosts by taking advantage of Japanese cultural sensitivities in order to pursue personal interests in a manner that would not be tolerated anywhere else. In short, these people irritate me and I wish they'd go home.

    But then that's just how I feel today. I may change my mind tomorrow depending on the strength of the coffee in the staff room that morning.

  • 0

    Vagante

    I love the irony. A few generations ago, it was quite common for Japanese to share mixed-sex public bath facilities without media attention. Bare-breasted pearl divers were the norm, breast-feeding in public was quite common (and not uncommon in family photos), and porters and delivery workers in the countryside often went on their way more or less naked. It appears that the influence of western "morality" then influenced the Japanese to cover up. A female friend told me recently that these days, some women in the female side of an onsen will wear bathing costumes. Irony is always good for a chuckle, so let's enjoy!

  • 0

    gogogo

    It appears that the hair on the head may be blond but the color below could be different

    They shouldn't be looking. I can't comment more because mod will edit.

  • 0

    fairyprince

    “There isn’t a single day that we don’t have foreign customers. But they walk everywhere naked and it’s quite embarrassing.”

    Embarrassing for who? It sure as hell seems that the foreigners are not embarrassed. Perhaps the Japanese are embarrassed because they are missing a lil' something something that foreign men and women have? teehee

  • 0

    smithinjapan

    LFRAgain: "I suspect - but cannot prove - that the boldness these foreigners exhibit at this onsen is spurred by the all-to-frequent superiority complex many foreigners seem to develop in Japan, a problem stemking from and compounded by a Japanese propensity to not say anything, even in the face of something simply outrageous. IMO, these nudists are taking the Japanese desire to preserve the harmony of a situation and mistaking it with implied consent, which woulb be very wrong."

    Dude, Japanese customers are going to the onsen to SEE the very thing you say the foreigners are 'mistaking as implied consent'. As for the Japanese being more modest, in some cases that's correct, and in others it's not -- making it a generalization. I've been to a couple of 'konyoku' onsen and the ojisan in particular were FAR from modest in some cases (there have only ever been a few women at best, and much older).

    Ultimately, if this is a major issue there isn't much that can be done aside from segregating the baths and/or asking people to adhere to a certain level of politeness (ie. as you said, covering up to an extent). I don't think that's a bad thing at all (the latter), and it sure beats the idea of asking foreigners not to enter based on the more 'passionate' nudist tendencies of a few. Whether people would listen or not, and what staff would/could do if they didn't is another issue.

  • 0

    SweenyTodd

    "Walking naked everywhere"? Not quite sure what that means. In the onsen area, from pool to pool? In the lounge? On the street?

  • 0

    Azrael

    Something people don't seem to grasp (no pun intended) is that nudity is allowed in the bath area and changing areas but NOT in the lounge or anywhere outside the bath area. Every activity at the onsen has its place, including eating and drinking. Being naked in an area non-designated for that use is therefore embarrassing for the viewers who understand how the place works. An onsen is NOT a nudist resort. The fact that there are mixed baths does not turn an onsen into a nudist resort. Onsen and sento are organized in terms of activity and service, for maximum efficiency. For example from my experience in University field trips, bathing nude with friends and classmates at the onsen or sento is normal, but nobody goes nude in the hotel rooms we share, let alone walk naked in the lounge or the dining room. Onsen yukatas are provided for guests for a reason. For Japanese like for most people in the world, misplaced nudity is impolite.

  • 0

    OneForAll

    Used to like onsens till I noticed stuff floating around. Warm water and a bunch of naked people sweating. Germ factory! I'll take a waterfalls any day. Chlorinated water for non moving water.

  • 0

    Bento

    Most Westerners(unless they travel alone) lack the subtlety required to use and preserve mixed sex bathing.In their enjoyment of it they destroy it.

  • 0

    DickMorris

    Another excuse to flaunt nakedness and commit indecent exposure. Where are the morals? Bathing suits should be made compulsory.

    Nudity should be criminalised in public, it os for vile poeple.

  • 0

    space_monkey

    I am there in a flash! :)

  • 0

    ca1ic0cat

    Reminds me of the old "Far Side" cartoon: two bears are at the edge of the woods looking into a nudist colony. The one bear says "well, there goes my appetite..."

    In general people look better with their clothes on. That said, I'm not for enforcing prudish behaviour as long as the nudists stay in areas that aren't going to offend those with weak stomachs.

  • 0

    SweenyTodd

    ca1ic0cat:In general people look better with their clothes on.

    Not sure how you could possibly know this is true, but don't you think people would take better care of their bodies if they did not have clothes to cover up the fact they don't take of their bodies?

    DickMorris: Nudity should be criminalised in public, it os for vile poeple.

    I am not sure the word vile means what you think it means. Simple nudity has not killed or injured anyone to date, except maybe some people who stressed themselves to death over it. Relax a little. Enjoy life.

  • 0

    Tim_Fox

    Bento: "Most Westerners(unless they travel alone) lack the subtlety required to use and preserve mixed sex bathing.In their enjoyment of it they destroy it."

    There are a great deal of Westerners who try to follow local customs in groups. I take issue with the word most and would like to see this substantiated with numbers. It takes one or two negative incidents to create bad press for all Westerners.

    Also, I believe many onsens do not post instructions in English. My first experience in a public bath way back when, I went into the bath alone because my girlfriend at the time went into the women's side. I did not know I should be discreet about holding the cloth over my nether region when not in the bath. I did not know the rules, and once I learned them I was very careful about following them and trying to respect local culture.

    I also think though that minority populations will also direct culture and tradition in new ways. New cultures brings new ways of thinking and ideas, and Japan does not have the flexibility that Westerners are used to in their multi-cultural countries. Japan can sometimes come across as rigid to Westerners. But, I think good travelers should be well-informed ones - and well-informed ones should do their best to blend in rather than make waves and risk offending locals.

    Sorry this post got a little long and off-track didn't it?

  • 0

    elbudamexicano

    Who in the hell says you are supposed to cover your "privates" when you are in a Japanese hotspring? I see plenty of dudes not covering anything, and sure there a the junior high kids, who due to their age can't "control" their "muskochans" so they may feel embarassed and cover it up, but as long as you are not "waving it around" in someones face, which I have seen (a gay Japanese man with his gay foreing lover waving it in his face and the J gay dude just smiling) I think most natives here would not be happy with Mandingo or anyother foreing dude waving it in their face, so apart from that I don't aree with Tim.

  • 0

    Den Den

    Vaquante is referring to the christian influence that came with the wars end. In a consenting world, this environment could be wonderful, if there was controls over 50 something year old guys following me around.

  • 0

    imacat

    It sounds like a lot of fun at Takagawara.

    I've always had a good time at hot springs in Japan, especially if they have a kashikiri-onsen or kashikiri-buro.

    If you going to a hot spring with your cute Japanese girlfriend, make sure it has one of these.

  • 0

    Hopfly

    What I infer from this article is the foreign tourists are middle-aged and probably overweight(by J standards),whose nakedness is embarrassing, and would probably frighten small children.

  • 0

    NuckinFutz

    Oh just shut up and reap the profits!

  • 0

    BurakuminDes

    I love being naked often, like the Japanese do. But I won't go to this onsen: who wants to go and be naked where up to 70 percent of fellow bathers are foreigners? No, I want the "real Japan", where I am the only foreigner and all the other mixed bathers are Japanese. Then, I feel more special and appreciated.

  • 0

    jeffrey

    Two customers from Saitama in their 40s, who said this was their third visit to the onsen, were obviously enjoying the sight. “This is about the only place where you can have a close encounter with naked blond-haired women. It appears that the hair on the head may be blond but the color below could be different,” laughed one.

    Ah yes. The conundrum of mismatch drapes and carpet.

  • 0

    Fadamor

    Bah. If your going to avoid a public bath because of its ratio of foreigners to natives, then you're doing it for the wrong reason. May as well just stay at home and give yourself a sponge bath.

    I thought it was interesting that the comment of the staffer was that (the foreigners) walked everywhere naked and it was embarassing, yet the President of the company that manages the resort says that the foreigners are "well mannered".

    And I've also heard the suggestion to cover your genitals until you're in the water. Makes sense to me. I doubt anybody else wants to see what I have down there. It's not a nudist fashion runway, after all.

  • 0

    PepinGalarga

    i agree with LFRA and Azrael. The nudists think onsens are nudist camps. They could actually be arrested for walking naked in non-bath areas.

  • 0

    CultureChange

    Many countries, such as the US, are embroiled in a politically correct War on Sex. These foreigners are seeking this kind of venue to escape the persecutions of thier own cultures.

    Can you imagine the outrage of a nude spa in the US? Good Lord, the federal govt would drop everything (no pun intended) to pass a new law banning it. Failing social security, medical care, budget deficits, ecomony, war, and all the other massive issues would take a back seat to any new sex regulation.

  • 0

    kidoave

    go to Europe, it is normal in Germany, Sweden etc to have nudist hot bath...why it become exaggerated here in Japan.

  • 0

    beavis

    @jeffrey

    Ah yes. The conundrum of mismatch drapes and carpet.

    That is hilarious!

  • 0

    m0l0

    they make it sound like theres a secret gaijin onsen appreciation society

  • 0

    kirakira25

    go to Europe, it is normal in Germany, Sweden etc to have nudist hot bath...why it become exaggerated here in Japan.

    Do you really need it spelled out for you???!

  • 0

    Maria

    Where in the article does it state (or even suggest) that these guests are wlking naked anywhere outside the bathing/changing area?

    It doesn't.

    Their worst crime is not being embarrassed - how dare they! them with their big bodies!

    As nudists, they probably keep to the hygiene rules better than most - sitting on your towel etc.

  • 0

    Potsu

    "FLOCKING" there...so probably 3 old leatherbacks ?

  • 0

    ultradodgy

    Rubbish. I've been there many times and while there are some foreigners, there are hardly tons of them - and most if not all are much more shy than the Japanese (as one could quite easily expect).

  • 0

    shiratori

    Why don`t they make a separate hot springs for men and women, if they are so embarrassed?

  • 0

    888naff

    I wonder..

    Invited, organized? (there are plenty of organized nude places - an onsem isnt one, well not outside the pool that is as suggested in this story. Is the owner happy about this?)

    or

    taking advantage ignoring the local customs? (not the firts time for some types of tourist that can be abroad but you wouldn't know it especially with set up areas, ghettos representing home in some countries)

  • 0

    Bento

    or interested in the healing powers of the mineral rich waters,in fact the reason onsen came into existence to begin with.Westerners make the classic mistake MOST of the time..nudity=sex,sometimes its true but sometimes its not.

  • 0

    Fadamor

    Personally, if I tried to have sex in a hot spring, I know SOMETHING would burst inside me. You're stressing the circulatory system as it is by dumping yourself in very hot water. If I go to a hot spring - public OR private - I am NOT looking for nookie.

  • 0

    SiouxGirl

    Am I the first to complain that there's no accompanying pic as an example of said nudity? Actually, I really don't need one. One of my friends said, "Why is it that the ppl who should not be nude are the ones that ARE nude?" You can count me out. Because of the germs, however - not because of the nudity.

  • 0

    dontpanic

    Theres only one way to put a stop to this. I'll have to visit.

  • 0

    bokudayo

    dontpanic - either you, or this guy ---> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH4uTAX8DGw

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