We recently had Trevor’s parents from Canada over for a visit, so we decided to go to Shirahone Onsen and take a bath together in an open-air bath. Wow! For foreigners, taking a bath with other people or being naked in front of others can be an extraordinary experience. We decided to go to Shirahone Onsen, which has white-colored water that hides our bodies a lot more than clear water baths. At the place we stayed in Shirahone Onsen, women are allowed to wrap a big towel around their body, so it was easy to try the mixed open-air bath with gentlemen.
Shirahone Onsen means “White Bone Hotspring”. The reason for the name is that calcium and magnesium in the water sediment and build up bone-like lumps around the bath. At least that’s the story I heard.
We stayed at a Ryokan (Japanese inn) that had a Japanese style dinner and breakfast and slept in futons on the tatami floor. In total, we took 3 baths while we were there: one soon after we arrived, one before sleeping, and a last morning bath.
For Trevor’s parents, everything was a new experience. They had a great time and we had a great time, too!
This is a blog for foreigners in Japan from all over the world, so here is some extra advice for our visitors who stay at Shirahone Onsen.
1. Some tips for taking a bath:
・Use the shower and rinse your body carefully before soaking in the bath.
・Tidy up your shower stall for the next person.
・Cover your privates with your washcloth on the way to the shower and bath areas.
・Remove all clothes and towels before entering the bath.
・Leave your washcloth outside the bathtub.
2. Don’t be shy! Try the open-air bath with your friends and other guests.
3. Try the Onsen Gayu (rice porridge made with hot spring water), if they have it.
For more information on Shirahone Onsen, check out:
Shirahone Onsen webpage: http://www.shirahone.org/ (Japanese only)
Matsumoto city official site: http://welcome.city.matsumoto.nagano.jp/contents04+index.id+5.htm (English)