People with tattoos are not allowed in most onsens in Japan.
Whut whut?! Why?
Well because… Having tattoos means you’re a bad person.
Or at least, that’s the general, negative perception in Japan, due to its longstanding history and association of tattoos with criminals or yakuza.
“People with body ink are refused entry to public swimming pools, bathing spots, beaches and often gyms, while visible body art can be harmful to job prospects.”The Japan Times
Times are changing, yes, but it’ll take a while before this stereotype is gone.
So be prepared to be stared at if you have tattoos, especially big and colourful ones.
Yes, even if you’re a foreign tourist.
I myself have gotten a couple of stares when I went to an onsen that allowed tattoed guests. And mind you, my tattoos are small and not at all yakuza-worthy.
That being said, this onsen I went to was really cool! So let ’em stare, I don’t care. Heh.
If you have tattoos and are in Hakone, which is conveniently located just about an hour away from Tokyo, then you have to check out this place!
Tenzan Tohji-kyo is a tattoo-friendly, outdoor onsen in Hakone
It received a lot of good reviews on TripAdvisor, and about 27 of those reviews verified that they do accept people with tattoos. So rest assured, you and your gloriously tattooed body will be allowed entry.
You can buy your 1,200 yen entry pass via the vending machine outside the door, or pay inside and get a 100 yen discount with your Hakone Freepass or Fuji Hakone Pass.
The best thing is, there’s no time limit, so stay all you want!
Tenzan’s outdoor onsen is really pretty and relaxing.
It has different hot spring baths of varying temperatures. My favourite was the milky one, which is supposed to be good for your skin. Mm mm mmm.
Getting to Tenzan Tohji-Kyo From Hakone-Yumoto Station
- Take the bus
It’ll cost you 100 yen or it’s free if you use your Hakone Freepass or Fuji Hakone Pass.
There are two options. 10 min. by B bus in front of Hakone Tourism office from Hakone-Yumoto Station or 10 min. by Hakone Tozan bus bound for Moto-Hakone via Hatajuku from Hakone-Yumoto Station. Stop at Okuyumoto Iriguchi bus stop in front of Tenzan’s signboard.
The last bus from Tenzan back to Hakone-Yumoto Station leaves at either 7:47pm or 8:47pm.
Don’t bother walking, cause the way there is slopey and not pedestrian-friendly.
- From the entrance, walk down the slope
Tenzan’s onsen will be on your left.
Not sure how the whole onsen thing works?
Here’s a simple guide you can refer to on onsen etiquette:
An Easy 4-Step Beginner’s Guide On How To Take An Onsen Bath
- Prepare your soul and remove your soles
There’s usually a shoe locker right by the onsen entrance. Leave ’em there. You can buy your onsen ticket from a vending machine or straight from the counter.
- Birthday suit up aka get naked
Head to the changing room and start stripping. There should be a locker there for your makeup bag/clothes/etc.. If it’s your first time and you’re embarrassed, the best thing to do is to just go ahead and strip. Don’t even stop to think about it. Bring only a small towel with you to cover your privates if you’re feeling shy. Forgot yours? Don’t worry, onsens usually sell them at the entrance.
- Wash your sins away
Before you step into any onsen pool or tub, you need to take a shower to get rid of any dirt. This is good onsen etiquette. Shampoo and body wash are usually provided at the shower areas.
- Rest and relax in your chosen onsen pool or tub
If there are a few hot spring baths to choose from, then start from the least hot to the hottest bath. If you’re feeling faint, move to a cooler bath. Soak for about 10 – 30 minutes per tub. Don’t let your small towel get into the onsen water. If you have long hair, bun it and don’t let it sit in the water as well. Don’t make noise and just relax.
Oh yes, and before I forget…
Some onsens do accept tourists with tattoos that aren’t too big, provided they cover them up with special tattoo cover stickers. They’re like nipple cover stickers, but for tatts.
You can buy tattoo cover aqua stickers here or get them at most major pharmacies in Japan.
Wokay, that’s all I have to share for now.