- Washing carefully BEFORE you enter the water is the most important part (except for maybe remembering to take off your clothes).
- Most Japanese baths will have small stools to sit on and a separate washing area away from the water. In very simple or very traditional baths, however, you'll need to crouch by the edge of the bath and scoop bathwater directly out to rinse yourself -- it's okay in these baths if you don't have soap.
- Most simple to medium-range onsen expect you to bring your own soap and face towel, and even at many fancy places you can often save 300-500 yen by bringing your own. At some high-end places, all towels, soap, shampoos, and other toiletries are included in the entry fee.
- It's best to use coin lockers for any valuable items or documents (though theft in Japan is rare).
- In most onsen, taking photographs is not allowed.
- Use care and common sense about entering and exiting -- many surfaces are slippery.
- Many onsen ryokan (hotels) have alternating male-only and female-only hours, so be attentive: the bath you entered the day before might be reserved for the opposite sex the following day.
- You will sometimes even see Japanese slopping their towels in the water or (horrors!) wringing them out in the bathwater, but this is very rude. ALWAYS make sure you're as clean as possible before entering the water, and never rinse your towel in the bath or let it touch the water.
- Many people prefer to put their towel on their head while bathing, but setting it on a rock or the side of the bath is acceptable too. If it accidentally slips into the water, wring it out outside the bath.
- Never try to peek through the partitions or around walls to see the other gender's bathing area.
- Don't swim in the bath...use it only for quiet soaking and contemplation.
- After leaving the bath, wipe off excess water and sweat as best as possible with your face towel prior to re-entering the locker room.
- Many onsen have rooms where you can lie down and nap, drink a cold beer or tea, or even sit in a massage chair. Don't be afraid to take advantage of these post-bath relaxation opportunities!
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