Visiting a Japanese Onsen, or Learning to Love Letting It All Hang Out

A Japanese onsen is, essentially, just a hot tub filled with mineral-rich waters drawn from nearby hot springs, sans the whirlpool jets and leering swingers chugging margaritas. Located throughout Japan, particularly in peaceful pockets of its sweeping countryside, onsen are to the Japanese what fast-food drive-thrus are to Americans: comfort for the soul. They’re often visited by couples and families during vacations that are all too rare for this hard-working populace–“workaholics” is a derogatory, unfair, insufficent way to describe the admirable, if highly pressurized, Japanese work ethic–and coworkers on company retreats even travel to onsen together, too. They’re viewed as placid

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