Onsen Tips for LGBTQ People

onsen tips for LGBTQ people Tips

Onsen Facilities in Japan

Most onsen in Japan are gender-segregated. You must be completely naked when entering an onsen. Wrapping a bath towel around your body is also not allowed. Growing up in Japan, I never felt embarrassed to go to an onsen with a friend or stranger of the same sex. Thinking back on my own life, I may have resisted it during my adolescence, but now that I am an adult, I don’t think of it as anything special.

It’s just something I’ve gotten used to, and I think it would be something newcomers would be resistant to. Some people may think it is a strange custom, but I can assure you that if you like onsen, you will probably not mind.

I know that LGBTQ people have a harder time adjusting to the Japanese onsen system than cisgender and heterosexual people. But it’s not too early to give up. There are a few options, so please read on before you give up on onsen altogether.

Guestrooms with open-air baths

open-air-bath of guestroom
open-air bath of guestroom

You can enjoy onsen without worrying about time or the eyes of others.

In some high-class onsen ryokan, rooms of higher grade than usual are equipped with an exclusive onsen.

You can enjoy onsen whenever you like in your own private onsen during your stay.

Private onsen that can be rented by the hour

This is an inexpensive way to enjoy a private onsen.

Generally, you can rent a bath for about an hour for about 2,000 to 3,000 yen. Reservations must be made in advance or at check-in.

Most bathhouses are large enough for 2-3 people. Of course, you may enter alone.

Many inexpensive onsen ryokan also have private baths.

Some of them offer free private baths, so it is recommended to stay at such hotels if you want to try out the baths.

Kyoritsu Resort is a representative chain that offers free private baths.

Almost all facilities in hot spring resorts have free private baths.

You can enter the baths whenever they are available, and if you lock the door, you have your own private onsen.

Unfortunately, the website is only in Japanese.

Yuami gown (bathing suit)

This was introduced to cover scars from surgery. Some onsen do not permit the wearing of yuami gowns, and many do not rent them out, so you need to check in advance.

Some “mixed bathing” facilities, which will be discussed later, do allow yuami gowns.

However, I have been to many onsen and have never seen anyone wearing one. In other words, it is more conspicuous to wear it, which may result in attracting attention.

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“Kon-yoku (Mixed Bathing)” is Inclusive

In fact, not all Japanese onsen are gender-segregated. There are “mixed bathing” onsen, where anyone can enter regardless of gender. (Of course, everyone must be naked.)

Although the number of such onsen has been decreasing in recent years, some long-established onsen ryokan still have them.

Even though anyone can enter, women hesitate to enter if there are men in the baths, so women-only hours are set aside to accommodate them.

Other times are not men-only, so the baths are truly mixed.

It is a good idea to try the most inclusive “Kon-yoku” experience.

There are also hot springs like this one.

Tsuru no Yu onsen

“Tsuru no Yu onsen” in Nyuto Onsenkyo, Akita Prefecture, has an open-air mixed bath using cloudy white hot spring water.

Once you are shoulder-deep in the hot water, your body is completely hidden from view.

A blindfold wall is provided at the entrance for women, through which they can enter the hot spring without being seen.

The white color of the water is used to its full advantage, and the good qualities of a mixed bathing experience are maintained, but with consideration for the women as well.

Will you find onsen that suits you?