RYOKANS providing rooms with private open-air baths
October 22, 2018 update
Japanese hot springs, or onsens, can refresh you, make you feel relaxed, and have medicinal properties good for health and beauty. That’s why there are so many onsen fans all over the world. However, many think that the separation of male and female is a drawback. I have written and published an article on “couple onsen” where you can have a romantic time with your lover of the opposite sex on this website, but I am also sure many people want to enjoy onsens with their families, regardless of gender. In this article, I am going to introduce you to “family onsen” which is a perfect solution to that.
Many travellers visit Japan in the form of family vacation. There may be both masters and beginners of Japan tourism and onsen in the same family. If the group includes elderly persons and small children, being separated from them may cause extra anxiety. It is hugely regretful if the hot spring experience in Japan becomes something filled with worries and loneliness.
As I have explained in the “couple onsen” article, there are actually hot spring facilities in Japan where men and women can take a dip together, including theme park-style “spa lands” where everybody wears swimsuit, and “mixed baths” (or “konyoku” in Japanese) where all people bathe together, naked. But neither of them meets the needs of families who want to enjoy hot springs in a relaxed and slow manner. Most people on family trips like to unwind in traditional, authentic Japanese onsens.
The solution here is “family onsen” where your family, regardless of sex, can occupy the whole hot spring. There are basically two types of family onsens – private onsens in guest rooms, and onsens outside guest rooms for you to charter. Many onsen ryokans in Japan have either or both of them. In both cases, your privacy will be fully protected. You do not need to care about others’ eyes, and are free to enjoy the hot spring with your family in the way you like.
Compared to couple onsen which can be summarised as “sweet”, the keyword of family onsen is “harmonious”. There is a saying in China and Japan that harmony is the greatest of virtues. Obviously, harmony is critically important in a family. With the whole family taking off their clothes and relaxing in the same space, you can become closer than ever, psychologically, to other family members. Having a nice bath together in the hot spring creates a conciliatory mood which makes everyone more tolerant. Family onsen is not only an onsen – it offers an additional value of harmonising your family.
Because of the generation gap and other factors, parents and children usually experience some delicate relationship, and family onsen provides a special environment in a warm atmosphere where they can shorten the mental distance between each other through communicating lightheartedly and frankly. This is not only good for education of small kids, but also beneficial to the building of a good relationship between parents and children who are both adults. Family members who squabbled before would also be influenced by the aura of harmony and open up to each other again soon.
Additionally, family onsen can eliminate several problems attached to normal Japanese hot springs that separate men and women. Not everyone in a family is an experienced Japan traveller and onsen expert. People who can speak Japanese or are familiar with onsens should be okay, of course, but family members – especially elderly persons – who do not know the onsen rules and cannot communicate with the Japanese staff would make others worry. For instance, my father is the only male member in my family which consists of my parents, my sister and me (I am a Hong Kong woman living in Tokyo). Every time we go to a Japanese hot spring, the three women become anxious and feel sorry for Dad. The slippery floor, and the high temperatures and humidities are also causes for concern. Personal problems including high blood pressure, diabetes and weak legs add to the anxiety.
In contrast, family onsen allows the whole family to bathe together, removes the lonely feeling, and let all other family members to take care of persons who are not used to Japanese hot springs, who suffer from chronic illnesses, who experience mobility difficulties, as well as small children. Japanese people love the phrase “safety and security” much, and family onsen exactly achieves “safety and security” of the whole family. As to little kids, it may be troublesome for a parent of the opposite sex to take the child to a normal hot spring. Undressed little girls may also be exposed to the eyes of some bad men. Family onsen is the prime solution to all of them.
It is nice to have a quiet and elegant time at a family onsen for sure, but if you like, you can also enjoy it with other family members in a lively manner. You have the say because nobody is going to bother you in a family onsen. Through pleasant conversations and relaxing together, you will feel warmth and happiness of the family, and realise that your family is becoming more harmonious. Some family onsens are open-air baths or indoor baths with exceptionally fine scenic views, and therefore make your family even more pleased. The experience at family onsen will become a beautiful and unforgettable memory shared by every family member.
Please find out and reserve your favourite family onsens at this website. With family onsens, you can say “sayonara” (goodbye) to the sense of loneliness and anxiety brought by normal Japanese hot springs, and build an even more peaceful and harmonious family.
Photo: Niseko (Milk Kobo), Hokkaido
Photo: Osaka (Doutonbori), Osaka Kyoto Kansai Region
Photo: Yokohama (Minato Mirai 21), Kanagawa, Tokyo suburbs
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