February 2018

January has passed and it’s already February!  Every winter season, I think about an onsen (温泉).  It’s a Japanese hot spring and the bathing facilities and inns frequently situated around them.  As volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsens scattered throughout all of its major islands.  Onsens come in many types and shapes, including outdoor roten-buro (露天風呂) and indoor baths.

Traditionally, men and women bathed together at onsens naked (no swimming suits are allowed), but gender separation has been enforced since the opening of Japan to the West during the Meiji Restoration.  Mixed bathing tradition still exists in rural areas of Japan and those traditional onsens usually also provide the option of separate "women-only" baths or different hours for the two sexes.  

You might say that “I’m embarrassed about being naked at front of strangers.”  But please don’t let that scare you away from enjoying one of Japan’s nicest experiences.  First, no matter what your size or shape, life is too short to be ashamed of your body.  Nudity is natural and nobody cares what you look like at onsens (sorry… but, it’s true.)  Second, once you’re in the water there’s very little to see anyway.  Third, unless you’re specifically looking for a shared-gender onsen, you’ll only be seen by the same sex genders, so much like a locker room at school or going to the local gym.  Lastly, this is one great time to adopt the motto “When in Rome, do like the Romans do.”, so why not “When in Japan, do like the Japanese do!!”  There’s nothing to be worried about.  Just enjoy!!
Stays warm everyone; the spring is around the corner!!

Chie Schiller
Board Chair/Executive President