Sunday, May 7, 2017

Renting Private Baths at Onsens in Japan

Many tourists in Japan want to bathe in hot springs with friends and loved ones, but they do not want to expose their naked bodies to the eyes of strangers. Luckily, private bathing facilities exist in Japan. When visiting public onsens that offer both public and private bathing choices, newbies to Japan often do not notice that those two options are available. This blog post helps people who do not read or speak Japanese to bathe with just the people that they feel comfortable with when wearing their birthday suits.
Lucky Hotspringaddict in a Mixed-Sex Hot Spring Bath at Ryokojin Sansho, Kirishima, Kagoshima
First, you need to understand the meanings of Kashikiriburo and Kazokuburo, words which are defined below: 

Kashikiriburo - 貸切風呂: Couples, families, or friends who want to bathe together can rent a private bath for a limited period. Other people cannot enter.
Kazokuburo –家族風呂: This is basically the same as kashikiriburo above, but there is more of a feeling of family members bathing together.

Look for the kanji above when you enter a Japanese onsen. You could also practice the simple dialogue below so you can ask about the existence of private baths. 

Bather: Kashiriburo ka kazokuburo wa arimasu ka? (Do you have private or family baths?)
Bath Staff: Iie. Arimasen. (No. We do not have them.)
Bath Staff: Hai. Arimasu. (Yes. We have them.)
Bather:  Ikura desu ka? Soshite dono gurai tsukaemasu ka? (How much are they and for how long can we use them?)
Bath Staff: Ichi jikan wa______ yen desu. (One hour is ________ yen.)
Private Rental Bath at Ogino-yu, Sadogashima, Niigata

Baths that can be rented for private use are usually available for one hour. But it varies. Forty-five minutes is the shortest that I have experienced. Some onsen facilities limit the number of bathing guests to five, but others have no limit. After all, these baths are for families and groups of friends 

Some ryokans (Japanese inns) with kashikiburos and kazokuburos allow guests free access, but time reservations are usually required. Other ryokans might charge overnight guests extra for the private baths. According to my experience, day visitors to such ryokans pay between 1,500 yen to 3,500 yen for private baths. Hotel guests who must pay often receive discounts.

Kashikiburos and kazokuburos are becoming more popular across Japan. Some regions of the country have more than others. Private bathing options are unusually abundant in Oita prefecture. In fact, some onsen facilities only offer kashikiriburos.  In remote areas of Japan, such as Niigata, they are rarer. 

Nonetheless, it was on the island of Sadoshima in Niigata that I realized that my Swiss friends, a romantic couple, who love private bathing but do not read Japanese, had no inkling that they could bathe together. Because of my addiction to Japanese hot springs and many years of intensive bathing research, I could identify the kanji for the private baths. My friends had been to Ogino-yu Onsen, a public hot spring facility in Ogi Port, Sado, several times but each time had to separate from each other.

Hotspringaddict wrote this post to help people like them have a better time in this bathing-crazed nation. 

Be aware that Japan offers another way for friends to share baths. This type of bathing is called Konyokuburos - 混浴風呂: These are baths where everyone bathes together. Unlike kashikiriburo, anyone can enter.  You will probably end up bathing with strangers of other genders whether you want to or not. Konyokuburos have become scarce across Japan due to changes in social morality. One of my favorite locations for bathing konyakuburo style is Tsubame Onsen, which has two free outdoor konyakuburos that require short hikes. You will love them!

To learn more Japanese for bathing purposes, please click on the link to my Visual Japanese Onsen/Hot Spring Glossary.

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