Fudo no Yu was a community bath, meaning anyone was free to use it, and until last year it was left unsupervised. It was also one of a dwindling number of onsen in the Kanto region that allow traditional mixed bathing, known in Japanese as konyoku. Although Fudo no Yu ended up reopening a couple of months later, any opportunity for licentiousness has been strictly curtailed. The problems seen in Shiobara fit in with a wider trend that has seen a precipitous decline in the number of konyoku around Japan. In , the inaugural issue of Onsen Hihyo Hot-spring Critique dedicated its cover feature to the plight of mixed bathing. There are no official statistics on the number of mixed baths in Japan, so Ninomiya turned to Keita Oguro, a veteran onsen photographer with an encyclopedic knowledge of konyoku.
Travel and more
Travelling is about embracing new experiences. In Japan that can mean leaving your clothes, along with your comfort zone, in a neat pile far behind. Japanese onsens, or communal hot springs, adhere to ancient traditions which include bathing naked. While some visitors find it challenging, the enticements are hard to resist. Hot springs are an enormously pleasurable way to relax — especially after a big day of skiing. They also offer health benefits and an insight into Japanese culture. Japan is said to have more hot springs than any country on earth. Most are found in volcanic areas such as Kyushu and the Tohoku and Chubu regions, but they burble to the surface at many other spots, including downtown Tokyo. While travellers are welcome at most onsens, there is a strict etiquette to be observed.
TOKYO (4 p.m.)
Although sento and onsen are public baths, make no mistake, it is NOT a bathtub. People wash themselves fastidiously before getting into the bath itself. They spend hours there. To the Japanese, nakedness is not the issue. In fact, before Christian missionaries, men and women bathed together. Yep, that was OUR hang-up. So now the bathhouses are separated by gender.
Japan is nation that loves to bathe. When not at their own bathtub at home, people go to large public baths or bath houses — and, as opposed to the Western world, these places are frequented without any clothes. People bathe together completely naked. Sento refers to a traditional Japanese public bathhouse, while onsen describes a bath that uses water from an actual hot spring with a temperature higher than 25 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, the water must have at least one out of 19 different types of components, such as lithium or hydrogen ions. Both in onsen and sento , a variety of different baths can usually be enjoyed.