Going to an onsen for the first time can be a daunting experience and there are numerous guides available on a variety of different websites. The information that follows is not comprehensive, but includes some common things that you can expect, what you should do and what you should bring in most situations. To find onsen near you - check out our onsen map.
If you're looking for onsen in Beppu we recommend the website Onsen Meijin - this site features reviews and information on a broad variety of Beppu onsen. If you're looking for onsen both in Beppu and further afield The Onsen Magazine reviews onsen throughout Japan and includes information on tattoo friendly onsen.
Some general points to keep in mind: Admission costs can vary dramatically - from as little as 100 yen to over several thousand yen (if you choose to rent a private onsen). Depending on the onsen soap, shampoo and conditioner may or may not be provided. In some cases you may be able to purchase it
Some onsen will provide shampoo, conditioner and body soap - but some will not and price is not necessarily a guarantee so its good to bring your own.
Some onsen will provide hairdryers but again, this isn't guaranteed (and sometimes you have to pay to use them). However it is completely ok to use a showercap to keep your hair dry.
It is recommended to take off any jewellery or accessories before entering the onsen - some contain minerals that will discolour or tarnish metals.
If your hair is below your shoulders you have to tie your hair up and/or keep it out of the onsen water using some other way (for example a showercap or a hair wrap/turban).
Many onsen are not tattoo friendly - and they may not allow you to enter the onsen if you have a tattoo (even if it is a small tattoo). While some onsen are becoming more tattoo friendly, if you have a tattoo please check before paying and entering the onsen - because they can ask you to leave.
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