Instructional video promotes public baths to foreign visitors

TOKYO —

It is certainly not news that the number of “sento” (public baths) in Japan have been on the decline for quite some time. For instance, according to an association of Tokyo, the number of public bath houses fell from 1,273 as of December 2000 to 801 in 2012. And by all indications, Japan’s low birth rate points to a gloomy future.

If there’s one possible bright spot on the horizon, reports J-cast News (Nov 30), it would be the interest in bathing being shown by foreign tourists. When one survey asked foreign visitors what they would like to try on their next visit to Japan, the most popular response, with 45.6%, was “the onsen experience.” The high interest in bathing was also reflected in responses to the question “What aspects of Japan exceeded your expectations?” After the top response of “visits to natural and scenic locations” with 62.3%, the second-place response was “bathing at onsen” with 57%.

While sento operators certainly cannot ignore the potential for more business, not all is rosy. Problems have arisen due, among other reasons, to differences in national habits and customs. An extreme case appeared to have occurred in Iga City, Mie Prefecture on Nov 22, when a 34-year-old Chinese man entered the bath without first rinsing off (a practice referred to as “kake-yu”), which brought down a broadside of objections from others in the bath. The Chinese gent physically lashed out at his critics, landing blows that reportedly caused injury. He was arrested on suspicion of assault.

The strange thing about the above case was that the suspect was not a tourist; he had apparently been living in Japan for over 10 years and was reasonably fluent in the language. His apparent failure to have absorbed such basic sento etiquette after over a decade in the country appears somewhat incomprehensible.

Japanese nonetheless concede that their bathing habits do require knowledge of certain protocols, and they are getting better at disseminating them to non-natives, including short-term visitors.

In this regard, the tourist association in Tokyo’s Ota Ward has distributed an instruction manual for foreign bathers, which spells out various differences between Japanese and foreign bathing habits.

For example, the manual, printed in three languages (English, Chinese and Korean), includes such advisories as “Excuse me, but please remove your undergarments before entering the tub” and “Please don’t get in the tub until you’ve thoroughly rinsed off the soap suds.”

The manual is accompanied by multilingual wall posters featuring illustrations. And last July, Ota Ward also produced a “Sento manners for foreigners” video available in five versions, including Japanese, English, Chinese (written in both mainland and Taiwan characters) and Korean. The 3-minute, 44-second video includes such instructions as not carrying one’s towel into the bath water.

The English version of Ota Ward video may be viewed below.

In the video, Ota’s “tourism ambassador,” Indian national Salma Deep Prasad (phonetic), instructs new arrival “Boris” into the delights of a soak at a sento. At the end, the smiling Salma proclaims to his audience, “I invite all of you watching this to come up and try the public bathhouse when you come to Japan too. It’s a lot of fun and it feels great!”

The Japan Tourism Agency has designated the Kamata district in Ota Ward as a “strategic point” for setting up an environment conducive to the entry of foreign travelers, with the aim of attracting users of Haneda airport to nearby shopping streets and other businesses.

Nevertheless judging from the fact that the most popular Ota video on YouTube (the one in English), has yet to receive 2,000 views over the past six months, J-Cast News quips that those wishing to educate foreign visitors into the delights of a hot soak at a sento have their work cut out for them.

  • 12

    Crikey

    The "wash before entering" rule is rarely followed by Japanese men, in my experience. A very quick splash from the onsen bucket and in they get. A thorough body was might happen afterwards. Its quite put me off getting in myself, to be honest - especially when I caught some older guy doing the splits in the tub as part of his routine.....

  • 5

    wanderlust

    “Please don’t get in the tub until you’ve thoroughly rinsed off the soap suds.”

    They missed this in the video - one of the most important points!

    From memory, and from Debito's website, seaports such as Niigata that host many Russians have had the most problems with public baths; perhaps a Russian version is required too...

  • 2

    Pukey2

    I'd say that Chinese guy was a one-off considering that he's lived in Japan for years and can speak Japanese. But a scumbag nonetheless. They talked about this on many shows, but a lot didn't show that the translation in Chinese was wrong, not that it made a difference to this guy.

    Crikey:

    The "wash before entering" rule is rarely followed by Japanese men, in my experience.

    Too right! I've seen this so many times with my own eyes at the local gym I used to go to. This is even more disgusting given the fact that people sweat after exercising. Sometimes, the ojiisans see that the showers are all taken, and decide they don't need one. And one douse of kake-yu doesn't cut it either! This is not a purely gaijin problem. I just the women are better.

  • 5

    oikawa

    Interesting video. I love from 3:07. It's like the bad acting in a gay porno.

  • -1

    GalapagosnoGairaishu

    That YouTube video would be getting a lot more hits if the participants in the video were female, and undraped in the same manner from the waist up.

  • 5

    Viclovesdrama

    Lol - funny I know the guy called Boris, we went to the same language school many moons ago hahaha. I will say this though, in the name of omotenashi, it would be good to have a video on how to interact with non-Japanese for Japanese guests would be helpful as well. Walking out with a face of disgust as soon as a non-Japanese person walks in is not very omotenashi. It doesn't happen very often but that could be a bit of a prep for the Olympics.

  • 4

    letsberealistic

    The case with the Chinese guy sounds like media-fuelled racism to me; as people have stated Japanese themselves don't always rinse/wash before bathing at onsen/sento. Why did the other patrons complain when it's not unusual at all? Sure, the Chinese guy reportedly became violent but probably due to 10 years of pent up rage at the discrimination he faces on a daily basis.

  • 0

    cleo

    The "wash before entering" rule is rarely followed by Japanese men, in my experience.

    In my experience, Japanese ladies wash wash wash like they were trying to scrub their skin away, before they get in the tub. I've also never seen a Japanese lady follow the 'never put your wash towel in the tub, leave it on top of your head' rule, either. Everyone uses it as a little modesty cloth to cover their delectables both outside and inside the tub.

  • 3

    jforce

    They need an instructional video for tourists in this country, too. Foreign tourists usually have no problem figuring out the manners and rules. It's the domestic tourists that don't wash before, put their towels in the water, let their kids run crazy, track water all over the floors, leave their towels on the floor, ... I could go on.

    Funny video though.

  • 1

    tmarie

    So are they going to do away with the tat ban? If they want foreigners, they are going to have to accept that "we" don't have the same stigmas they do.

  • 3

    kimuzukashiiiii

    Indeed Tmarie - was just thinking exactly the same thing. No use making these wash rules if foreigners are banned from entering in the first place, because they have a butterfly on their arse or something equally offensive..

  • 4

    Atari

    I'd love to go but they won't appreciate my tattoos... I really hope they ease it a bit before I'm too old to travel

  • 7

    daito_hak

    34-year-old Chinese man entered the bath without first rinsing off (a practice referred to as “kake-yu”), which brought down a broadside of objections from others in the bath.

    Hypocrites! Basically every time I go to a Sento or an Onsen, I see some Japanese dudes young or old entering inside the water either by just throwing on themselves very quickly some water or basically by doing nothing. I see it every single time I go there.

    I once complained to a old guy doing it and his reaction was of course that he got upset from being told this sort of things by a foreigner. I said him then to better shut his mouth before I may put my hands on him.

    I mean come one, this is just disgusting to see these guys with highly questionable hygiene entering a pool shared with other people without properly washing themselves. And again Japanese do it a lot. This propaganda is again an anti-foreigner affair, that's all.

  • -9

    cleo

    All you tough guys complaining 'bout the folk who don't scrub every inch of themselves pristine-clean before they get in the tub, I hope you don't ever go sea-bathing...?

  • 6

    daito_hak

    @cleo

    Come one, how a hell would you compare a tub usually small to bathing into sea? This is ridiculous....

    We don't ask them to be "pristine-clean", we ask them a minimum of hygiene in a limited space that I should remind you, we are sharing totally naked. In others words, they should wash their ass. Simple no?

  • 6

    budgie

    How hard can it be? Have a shower and hop in the bath.

    It's not rocket science, but i suppose they have to invent something 'intangibly Japanese' about it that foreigners can never understand.

    Well they're half right. I can't understand why oyajis can hack up their lungs, splash everyone with shower soap and bend over in plain view displaying their backsides to all and sundry without a hint of modesty, when somehow it's the foreigners who need potty-training. One man's 'intangible' is another man's 'just plain gross, dude.'

  • 0

    cleo

    how a hell would you compare a tub usually small to bathing into sea? This is ridiculous...

    Yes, it is ridiculous. The tub may have a continuous supply of fresh water, at the very least it gets cleaned out once a day and so do the bodies going in it. The sea is teeming with fish and other creatures that perform all their bodily functions in the water, right up to and including being torn apart by other fish and/or putrefying on the sea bed. If you can't take sharing a tub with the ojisan, it is ridiculous, isn't it? If it really bothers you, just have another sluice-down when you get out.

  • 7

    zichi

    We don't go much anymore, except if its a good one outdoors and in the mountains. But I'm always surprised that fathers are allowed to bring in their young daughters into the male only sections?

  • 0

    Thunderbird2

    I'm not into exposing myself to complete strangers so I won't use these. I've shared a private onsen with my ex, but that's as far as I would go on that score. If I was built like a rugby player and super-confident maybe I would.

  • -5

    John Occupythemoon Daly

    I do love a good onsen/sento, but it can be boring to make a day just out of sitting in interesting hot tubs. Now, if they could add a casino to the mix, we'd be in business.

  • 1

    davestrousers

    I'm not into exposing myself to complete strangers so I won't use these. I've shared a private onsen with my ex, but that's as far as I would go on that score. If I was built like a rugby player and super-confident maybe I would

    Typical Brit thing to say. Shame a bit of travel didn't broaden the mind. Also, what makes you think everyone would be looking at you.. when I go to onsen its not like I'm looking round sizing everyone up.

  • -4

    CrisGerSan

    I live in a town in the US with one of the largest hot springs and a large public bath area with multiple pools. Almost no one washes before entering them so i think instrucitons are much needed for gaijin in Japan. I would love to visit some of the lovely Onsen on my next work time in Japan but will probably stick to smaller mountain towns as the big public places have foreigners who clearly do not know what is what. What the Japanese do or do not do in their own country is their business imho.

  • 2

    tmarie

    ** But I'm always surprised that fathers are allowed to bring in their young daughters into the male only sections?**

    This is a very good point. I have complained more than once when mothers have brought their sons in who were, in my opinion, too old to be there. If a boy is dunking his head to look at lady bits, he has no business being there. I've seen boys about 10 in the women's. Had no idea girls were banned in the men's. That's just sexist. or is it done for protection of the child? Hard to say with a country full of kiddie porn.

  • 4

    Iowan

    I use onsens to fight stereotypes. On purpose, I will keep washing until everyone else who is washing is done and then do the same for all the others who started after me.

  • 1

    igloobuyer

    I've probably been to almost 100 onsen and sento in my 15 years in Japan - love them. I just don't get why my UK and US friends are shy about exposing themselves.

  • 6

    TrevorPeace1

    They missed a most important rule of etiquette for Japanese onsen users - do not take a foreigner's towel and yukata from his basket and leave him nude to walk through the hotel lobby to take the elevator up to his room. Happened to me in Zao Royal Hotel, in November. Good thing I put my room key in the little locker provided. But I must admit it was fun shrugging my shoulders at the people exiting the elevator and telling them someone stole my things.

  • 5

    daito_hak

    @cleo

    I am not going to argue with your story of fish and things, you aren't making any sense right now. We are not arguing about the level of bacterias inside a tub vs inside the sea, please just let it go.

    What we are saying here is that some people lack the politeness and manners to wash themselves before entering a shared tub. A simple thing that anyone educated enough and respectful should understand and simply do. Apparently that's not your case and I should remind you that washing his/her body is a rule usually clearly stated by any Sento or Onsen in Japan, I am not making that up. So then go to explain them your theory of fish.

    And we are also pointing out here that trying to "educate" foreigners while a lot of Japanese are not behaving properly is hypocrisy. I know that some people can't stand that anyone would make the beginning of a critic towards Japanese (instead they will try to defend them with the silliest argument possible like your story of fish), but sorry you'll have to listen to people view even if it goes against Japanese.

    If you can't take sharing a tub with the ojisan, it is ridiculous, isn't it?

    Read again my previous posts, never I said that I won't share a tub with "the ojisan" as a general principle. I precisely pointed out to my experience with someone entering the tub with a visibly dirty body. What's your problem with that?""

  • 4

    Selchuk Driss

    But I'm always surprised that fathers are allowed to bring in their young daughters into the male only sections?

    Not everybody has pedophilic thoughts when they see naked children.

  • 0

    Serrano

    "a 34-year-old Chinese man entered the bath without first rinsing off"

    Yuck! He should take lessons on bathing from Max "Hammer" Dubois:

    "First you wash, then you bathe."

  • 1

    bicultural

    daito hack, you've seen people not wash every single time you've been to a sento or onsen? That's real funny because I've never seen that in my 10 plus years working in Japan. Is such a coincidence possible, or is one of us stretching the truth?

  • -1

    daito_hak

    @bicultural

    Yes every single time, living here for more than 11 years. Of course you do understand that I am not in an onsen or sento every day, don't you? And note that I am not the only one saying this, others in this forums have observed the same thing.

    Look, I am not saying that all Japanese do that, you do also understand that, right? Neither all foreigners do. And the problem is that the video above implies it whereas some Japanese do the same mistake. The video is wrong in the way that it accuses foreigners for a behavior which is also rather common among Japanese. The video is wrong in they way it makes it a foreigner problem.

    And listen to the rest of the video, it tries to say that any foreigner is completely dumb to the point that they can't figure out that they should pay when entering or put their clothes in lockers. You get the idea.

    Would they have made the same video but with Japanese characters and English subtitling, it would have been more respectful and close to the reality instead of stigmatizing foreigners.

  • 1

    TrevorPeace1

    @daito_hak Have to agree with you. Let's not stigmatize foreigners like me who learned the culture long before spending extended periods of time in the country. I have to admit I saw no one enter an onsen (and I've been to several) without washing first, and again when leaving. It's a cultural norm, and I'm surprised that some of the posters to this conversation thread have claimed to see Japanese people ignore it. Who else but them should know the protocol? Aren't we supposed to lead by example? I must admit, too, that I haven't seen the video; why bother when I know the routine?

  • 2

    cleo

    I precisely pointed out to my experience with someone entering the tub with a visibly dirty body. What's your problem with that?

    No, you did not mention any 'visibly dirty bodies'. You complained about people (men, as I've noted most women seem to take cleanliness before getting in the tub to fanatical levels) entering the tub by just throwing on themselves very quickly some water and these guys with highly questionable hygiene. No mention, precisely or otherwise, of visibly dirty bodies. What were they, streaked with oil from the car pool? Covered in blood from a hard day at the abattoir? Caked with salt from a dip in the sea?

    If all this stepping into the tub without a full-scale suds-up was occurring at an onsen, it's more than likely the people you see are already on their second or third bath of the day. How dirty do you imagine people get in a couple of hours spent sitting around eating and chatting?

    Regardless, I'm calling BS on visibly dirty bodies bobbing about in the tub every time I go to a Sento or an Onsen.

  • 8

    philly1

    I saw no one enter an onsen (and I've been to several) without washing first, and again when leaving

    It's a cultural norm, and I'm surprised that some of the posters to this conversation thread have claimed to see Japanese people ignore it.

    I'll join that conversation. I have seen it. I was a week-long guest of a rural Japanese woman and during my stay we went to the community onsen daily. Most women scrubbed up, but she routinely sluiced a small bucket of water over her shoulders and got into the tub. She was not in the habit of a daily morning shower (as I am); therefore, some people might think of her as "dirty" on that account.

    Before staying with her I had been to several onsen and knew the drill. I scrubbed up because I understood that by definition foreigners are considered "dirty" regardless of whether I had showered in the morning and not worked at anything beyond touring the countryside all day.

    When I travel abroad I am acutely aware that I represent my country and make a conscientious effort to behave as well as or better than the locals (giving up my seat to the elderly, offering a lozenge to a lady obviously in the throes of an asthmatic attack when everyone else was ignoring her plight, minding my please/thank you/sorry responses et cetera.)

    Therefore, I scrubbed every day. My host was a local known to the other women and I could not assume behaviours that she took for granted and they might accept from her. As for scrubbing afterwards, that I don't do as I have been given to understand that the minerals on the skin after a bath are beneficial.

  • 7

    Farmboy

    I think the point of the video is to demystify public baths for those who have never been in one. Many people on this site have been here for many years, and forget the state of mind one has when you can't make any sense of what you are seeing in front of you: where does one undress, where does one get a towel, where does one put things after bathing, etc. This information is useful for newcomers, but a little more detail on what supplies one might see, how they are stored, and where to put them when one is finished would improve the video in my opinion, as would exploring different styles of baths.

    As to Japanese people who don't obey rules, of course there are some. Some people throw trash out windows, sit in seats for the elderly, use their keitais in places they shouldn't, etc., but most people follow the rules, and no video will help those who don't.

  • 1

    notasap

    I only wish the US could have these. There was a time when public baths were in many places. Today, they would not be visited except by a select clientele and its sad, because most people would love to go and if the went once they would go again. Its the first trip that's so hard.

  • 3

    Gaijin Desi

    Japnese Onsen are really good. If you are visiting Japan then at least visit once and for gaijin living in Japan its a first time hesitation but once you used to it its a complete satisfaction. This kind of video really help first time visitors.

  • -11

    MissingCylonModel

    Thumbs up if you think they should make a version of this video for LADIES who want to use an onsen.

  • 4

    CraigHicks

    There are no problems with infections or other diseases being spread though sento bathing. The water is chlorinated, continually circulated and passed through a filtering system, and if the temperature is kept at 42c or higher bacteria are unable to survive. Tokyo sento rules require maintaining a minimum temperature of 42 degrees centigrade.

    Whereas onsens occasionally have a sign refusing tattooed patrons, tattooed people form a disproportionately large fraction of the sento customer base. Unless you are employed in the water or tattoo industries, going to a sento is about the only place you will be able to observe a full back Japanese tattoo (Irezumi).

    Interestingly, a female friend of mine visited to a sento near Haneda airport and reported seeing two senior citizen women with tattoos smoking cigarettes in the tub.

  • 6

    richkix

    I too have witnessed Japanese men entering the bath with just a splash from the bucket 90% of the time i go the gym. I have lived here for 15 years. I think it depends on the kind of onsen or sent you go to.

  • 1

    CajunH2O

    Ive been wanting to go to an onsen but yes i have received the no tattoo glare. My fiance has said next time i visit in hokkaido i can go to the one her and her family attend. Any insight into ones that are more tattoo tourist friendly?

  • -8

    LH10

    OMG japanese are really Germaphobes, make things complicated and high maintenance??? geez no wonder they cant live normal lives once they move outta japan lol they need to show people how to take bath? lolol agree with tmarie. come on, japan really needs to chill break some rules. normal folks just hope in no need for all that -----

  • 9

    Mariam Tebourbi

    an "instructional" video about sento for foreigners by gaijins speaking in japanese... nonesense.

  • 2

    Stranger_in_a_Strange_Land

    They need instructional videos for Japanese men as most don't even wash before going in. Oyukake my a$$. That's not even close to being enough. Dirty buggers ruin my attempt to relax in the onsen all the time.

  • 0

    Farmboy

    an "instructional" video about sento for foreigners by gaijins speaking in japanese... nonesense.

    Maybe, but you're assuming the actors speak English better than Japanese, and that all gaijin in the audience speak English better than Japanese. Meanwhile, the subtitles can be made in any lamguage, so that everyone can understand.

  • 0

    Kabukilover

    You do not need a doctorate to learn good manners in a sento. It is not that much different from what you learn before going into a public pool in North America or a hot spring in Europe, Asia, New Zealand or Greenland. Clean yourself off before you go in. If you have a skin diseases don't go in. Once you are in don't splash or make wee wee. There is nothing really unique about what the Japanese do. The only thing that may be different is that the Japanese cover their private areas when they go into the water.

    I am not a mixed bathing fan. The water is usually the right temperature to breed bacteria. Inevitably someone does make wee wee. In Japan people check out your body if you are a Westerner. That can be annoying.

    Funny how there were success law suits filled against sentos that discriminated against people who did not look typically Japanese a decade ago. Can't have that during the Olympics, I guess.

  • -2

    kurisupisu

    Enforce the bathing before entering rule and to all those with body art it is possible to cover most things with a large band aid or similar - if you have more than that then stay at home or book your own private bath for 20k up.....

  • 3

    Stranger_in_a_Strange_Land

    @Kurisupisu

    People that can't bear the sight of a tattoo should be the ones staying home.

  • 1

    Mariam Tebourbi

    @Farmboy: the only thing I'm assuming is that at 99,9% of foreign visitors speak English better than Japanese.

  • 0

    lationz

    Great, now I know the intangible intricacies of Japan's unique bathing culture, and I can get into onsen without all the scowling oyaji abandoning it in disgust once they see me!

  • 2

    Pukey2

    @bicultural

    As daito_hak and I and others have said, some but definitely not all Japanese do skip the washing part before entering the tub. You're just in your usual 'the Japanese can do no wrong' mode. I rarely go to onsens and I can never really recall seeing anyone skip the washing part, but I used to go to my local gym 5 days a week, and I can tell you this does happen a lot in the baths there. And it's disgusting considering these people have just exercised. At least have the decency to scrub off the sweat, cheese and other nasty things before going in. What can I, as a foreigner here, do? You've read the sort of reactions you get when you berate Japanese old men for not following their own cultural rules.

    I guess sometimes we don't see what we don't want to see, yes?

    Kabukilover:

    If you have a skin diseases don't go in.

    Why? Skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis are just about as contagious as tattoos.

    The only thing that may be different is that the Japanese cover their private areas when they go into the water.

    You're joking, right?

    Farmboy:

    As to Japanese people who don't obey rules, of course there are some. Some people throw trash out windows, sit in seats for the elderly, use their keitais in places they shouldn't, etc., but most people follow the rules, and no video will help those who don't.

    True, but as far as bathing rules are concerned, the Japanese seem to think only foreigners violate the rules. It doesn't matter whether it's an onsen, rotenburo or gym bath - the rules are the same. The worst thing is the hypocrisy.

  • 2

    Farmboy

    @Farmboy: the only thing I'm assuming is that at 99,9% of foreign visitors speak English better than Japanese.

    Miriam Tebourbi,

    I'm really not sure which language they speak best, but the largest group of foreign visitors is from South Korea.

    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/07/24/national/january-june-foreign-visitors-to-japan-hit-record-4-95-million/#.UqRpvyelhuY

  • -2

    tmarie

    More than a few times I have seen older women splash themselves and get in. I always ensure I soap up so everyone can see that the good gaijin knows the "rules" because yes, heaven forbid a foreign doesn't follow protocol there will be endless clucking about how bad we are.

  • -2

    cleo

    More than a few times I have seen older women splash themselves and get in.

    So have I, but certainly not enough times to get uptight about. In my experience, most women scrub scrub scrub fit to peel a layer of skin off before they get in. Do you take it that most people but not all wash first, or agonise over the few that don't? Maybe it depends on whether you're a tub-half-full person or a tub-half-empty person. :-)

    I always ensure I soap up so everyone can see that the good gaijin knows the "rules" because yes, heaven forbid a foreign doesn't follow protocol there will be endless clucking about how bad we are.

    Personally, I don't care about the clucking. Let them cluck away. If I'm at an onsen and it's my fourth or fifth dip of the day I'm going in with just a quick bucket of water over the shoulders. If I know I'm clean, what does it matter what the cluckers think? As for trying hard to be a 'good gaijin' - stopped doing that decades ago. To thine own self be true, an all that.

  • 1

    tmarie

    Cleo, since when is commenting in agreement getting uptight? Great that you don't care. Others do so why be nasty about it?

  • -3

    cleo

    why be nasty about it?

    How is it being nasty to say that I don't get uptight? We see the same thing, it bothers some folk, it don't bother other folk. Life isn't long enough to get uptight worrying about what other folk are getting uptight about.

    T'ain't being nasty. Just chillin'. In a hot tub. :-)

  • -7

    Kabukilover

    Let me say this. I am all for instructional video for foreigners who will be flooding Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics. Please understand that will the low yen a lot of foreigners will want more than bathing at a public bath.

    We need more instructional videos so that foreign visitors do not run smoke! This is absolutely vital to Japan's wellbeing!

    We need videos regarding proper behavior regarding the following:

    *How to use chopsticks. Yes I know WE resident foreigners know how to use them. But what about the hicks from Iowa? There is a right way and a wrong way to use chopsticks. Wrong way: Please to do not spear the sashimi with a chopstick. We japan only do that if we are absolutely dead drunk and no responsible for our behavior.

    • The proper behavior in going to a soap land. Do not be offended if they charge extra for foreigners. The girls do not speak English and you in bigger than they are normally used to. I am speaking of body weight of course.

    • How to ride a commuter train. There is a polite way of sticking your elbow into someone's back when you get on a crowded train in the morning.

    There should be other instructional videos as well. It is vital to Japan in 2020.

  • 5

    Tim_Fox

    This video sounds extremely patronizing and pedantic.

  • -1

    tmarie

    Because you imply that others are uptight - which I am sure you know is not a nice thing to be called.

  • -4

    cleo

    Read through the thread, and it's apparent that lots of folk are uptight (would you prefer tense, nervous, angry, anxious, worked up? I see all those on this thread....) about what other folk do or don't do when they use a communal bath. But I didn't comment on them (now I have....dang), I commented on me and my own reaction.

    And sorry, but worrying about the clucking does indicate a fair level of uptightness / tension / anxiety / hypersensitivity. Let them cluck.

  • 4

    tmarie

    Aren't "They" the ones who are "uptight" though for a) needing to make a video for foreigners and b) clucking about it?

  • 1

    Crikey

    Diving back into the discussion (haha) I conclude that pre-washing is a Rule for foreigners, but completely optional for Japanese. At the gym today I saw 5 older gents, all took the option of not washing first. Nice. My next trip I plan to work up a massive sweat and then dive right in to see who complains. Just to test the point, you understand. I will obviously have a thorough wash afterwards, as I will need it.

  • 0

    budgie

    The Japanese know good and well that tattoos on a foreigner do not mean gang affiliation. They know that is not part of our culture. They also know that foreign gang members are not likely to visit Japan (or leave their own neighborhood). Instead they insist 'well in OUR culture taboos are taboo' as just another stick to beat the gaijin with. Truth is they need any excuse to keep us out of their baths.

  • -1

    cleo

    The cluckers are certainly uptight, tmarie. So are the ones who cluck at the cluckers.

  • -2

    Fadamor

    The Japanese know good and well that tattoos on a foreigner do not mean gang affiliation. They know that is not part of our culture.

    Really? I disagree. How many heavily tatted NBA players throw "gang-sign" when they notice the camera is on them at court-side? Public perception is going to concentrate on "tats + NBA = gang members" and by inference will conclude that "tats = gangs" even in America. The reality may be different, but perception trumps reality every time.

  • 0

    Cliffy

    Tried bath/onsen before, does not enjoy it too much as I prefer the water temperature to be cooler even in Winter times (sometimes I take cold showers in Winter). Beside many hygiene reasons, I am also a very private person and do not like places with too many people expect when I need to go to work or shopping. Then, I will have to go to places with many people.

    As for tattoo, it does not bother me much. Well, I had co-workers with tattoos and some of them served in the Navy (so most of them have tattoo). My grandfather had tattoo. And, I have many scares instead of tattoo because I was very naughty and did many dangerous things (broken bones....)

  • 1

    Fadamor

    Assuming I ever actually get to make the trip (saving for vacations is difficult these days), I will make sure I have at least one stay at an onsen. I totally get that the actual hot springs are more for therapy than for keeping clean. Having seen some of the "hot tubs" in the States where so many people slathered in suntan lotion have jumped in that there is a oily foam forming on the surface, I wholeheartedly support getting clean BEFORE getting into a community pool/bath/hot tub/onsen.

  • -2

    tmarie

    The cluckers are certainly uptight, tmarie. So are the ones who cluck at the cluckers. Pot, kettle, black.

  • 0

    smithinjapan

    "Japanese nonetheless concede that their bathing habits do require knowledge of certain protocols,"

    Sorry, but I call point of order. At my gym, before hopping into the bath after a work out, or if I'm just there to use the bath because it's far nicer than my own, more than half of the other men who enter DIRECTLY enter the bath without not only washing, but not only rinsing off. They sit in the bath for a while, THEN go wash off and get back in. True, they don't trail any suds in them or wash themselves IN the bath, so to speak, but the whole protocol thing has become a bunch of lip service in my opinion, with me following 'the rules' more than the locals. Much as I might like to see how the women's room functions by comparison, people in the men's bath do not follow a lot of the so-called protocols mentioned. And they are, besides me, all Japanese.

    I absolutely love onsens, and love sentos for a change of pace, but the idea that foreigners need to be guided to rules people themselves don't follow and are that the foreigners are scorned for if they do not, isn't doing anything to champion any kind of cause. And heaven forbid there's a 'fashion tattoo'!

  • 2

    Strangerland

    Rule of thumb - tattoos are ok (or at least you will not be removed) from onsens where you stay overnight in the hotel. Tattoos are not ok at sento (public baths) or higaeri onsen (day-trip hotsprings).

    As for Japanese guys not washing before getting into the water, I think in over 300 trips to onsen and sento, I've maybe seen this 3-4 times. Seems to be a lot of exaggerating going on in this thread.

  • -3

    tmarie

    Or perhaps Stranger, people have different experiences or are more observant?

  • 1

    Strangerland

    Or maybe, some posters are exaggerating the situation from behind their computer screens. Having been to onsen/sento 300+ times I can tell you which of the two options I think is more plausible.

  • -3

    tmarie

    Or perhaps they are not and you just are unobservant. I have seen it numerous times here in the women's baths. I don't doubt the men are worse.

  • 0

    David Foley

    I live in northern Aomori . All onsen are natural and tatoos are welcome. 90 percent of the old Japanese men I see do not wash before getting in and there are little kids of both genders . None of it bothers me. I have been going to the onsen 5 days a week for six years now. It's how I learned Aomori dialect. Onsen are my favorite part of Japan. If the bath smells like chlorine then it's a crappy onsen. Average price up here is about 420 yen. Anyone who wants to enjoy onsen with tatoos and not be afraid of being called out for manners, come on up.

  • 0

    Strangerland

    Or perhaps they are not and you just are unobservant. I have seen it numerous times here in the women's baths. I don't doubt the men are worse.

    Or maybe they are exaggerating from behind their computer screens. We can go in circles as long as you'd like.

  • 0

    tmarie

    Why would anyone bother to exaggerate such a thing??

  • 0

    LH10

    LOL cleo and tmarie love the debating

    I honestly think Japanese are uptight

  • -1

    Stranger_in_a_Strange_Land

    As for Japanese guys not washing before getting into the water, I think in over 300 trips to onsen and sento, I've maybe seen this 3-4 times. Seems to be a lot of exaggerating going on in this thread.

    Come to my local onsen here in Tottori and you can 3 or 4 in your first 15 minutes or so. I am not exaggerating.

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