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How To Behave At Onsen: Honor The Japanese “Onsen Communication”

New to the world of Japanese hot springs and wondering how to behave at onsen? You might not have guessed one of the most important points is communication! In fact, one of the best parts about going to onsen is getting to chat with the other onsen goers. From a long time ago, people in Japan gather around the local well to enjoy public talks and gossip. The onsen is one of the main places for these interactions.

Want to know how to behave at onsen? Get talking!

In this article, we will explain how to enjoy the conversations that can be held in an onsen (hot spring). To learn more about onsen manners, please read, “Let’s get to know onsen manners!”

First, you must greet everyone!

The first thing you do when you enter the onsen is say “Konnichiwa,” which means hello. After this, the local people will welcome you warmly. In Beppu, the world’s onsen resort, many hot springs are following the mottos “let’s treasure onsen” and “let’s greet customers warmly.” You can clearly see this in Beppu’s open acceptance of visitors, which is a trait that the citizens of Beppu value.

Also, do not forget to greet the onsen receptionist as well!

In addition, if you go before 10 AM, then you should say “ohayou gozaimasu” and “konbanwa” if you go after 6 PM. Make sure to use these at the right time of day!

Koko ii desuka? (May I sit here?)

If you want to check that you are doing everything properly while washing your body, then you can ask “koko ii desu ka?” If they nod then it is fine, and if they shake their head then it means you are doing something incorrectly.

Imitate the local people

The basic rules for onsen are the same no matter where you go, but at some hot springs there may be additional rules that are specific to that onsen. However, local onsen will sometimes write these rules only in Japanese, so it is a good idea to follow the lead of the local people, and not do anything if no one else is doing it.
If you are really unsure, you may ask “Kore de attemasuka?” which means “Is this correct?”

If the hot spring feels good, then say so!

Another good way to start conversation is to talk about how nice the onsen feels. To say this, you can either say “kimochii desune,” which means “doesn’t this feel good?” or you could say “iiyu desune” which means “isn’t this hot spring nice.” Say this with a nod and a smile and conversation will begin to flow easily.

If you become an Onsen Master, then you may begin to say “Yoi yu! Yo yu!” which means “nice hot water. I can take it!” when you enter a very hot onsen. Locals will think you know onsen very well.

Do not forget to say goodbye!

Depending on the type of onsen that you have just entered, there are different types of goodbyes that you might say. For example, if there is a receptionist, then you will say “arigatou gozaimashita” (thank you) as you are leaving the onsen. Below are a few other ways to say goodbye as you leave.

If you go to a local onsen at night, then you should say “oyasumi nasai” (good night) as you leave. Most locals will go straight home and to bed after leaving the onsen, so this is an appropriate usage of the term.

A more advanced goodbye will make you sound more like a local. As you are leaving, say “osaki desu,” which means “I am leaving before you.” This is a rough translation, but it is a politer way of saying goodbye. The locals will be very impressed with your language skills if you use this phrase.

What do you think?

In this article, we explained one f the keys to know how to behave at onsen is communication. And we introduced 11 words used to get you started. For the people of Beppu, if you enter an onsen, then you are automatically a friend, so you can have many pleasant and unique interactions with the local people. The comforts of an onsen spread far beyond just the refreshing feeling of the hot spring; your spirit will also be refreshed through these friendly interactions. But if all of these words are too hard to remember at one, just start with a simple “Konnichiwa” and a smile, and the rest will quickly follow.


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