Soaking up in an onsen, or Japanese hot spring, is a must-do activity in Japan. If you’re looking for a refreshing, comforting, and healing experience, bathing in an onsen might be the perfect activity for you.
Enjoying an onsen is more than just about taking a bath. For the Japanese, soaking up in an onsen is part of connecting to their roots, tradition, and way of life. Japanese onsen provides more than relaxation of the mind. It also soothes, cures, and nurtures your tired body.
Allowing your body to enjoy the heat and water in an onsen has many health benefits.
What Is Actually An Onsen?
“Onsen” is defined as a hot spring in Japan. Onsen is such a big part of Japanese culture that they even have a law defining and regulating onsens named the “Hot Spring Act.”
The law defines an onsen as a “hot water, mineral water, and water vapor or other gas (excluding natural gas of which principal component is hydrocarbon) gushing from underground.” It has a temperature that reaches 25oC or higher and is rich in beneficial substances and minerals.
Rotenburo, or outdoor onsen, is often considered more beneficial than indoor onsens. These are natural hot springs or ancient man-made hot springs. Many wellness experts prefer rotenburo because you get to enjoy nature more, which is part of the whole experience of onsen.
Onsen is more than just cleaning your body. In fact, guests are required to wash and clean their bodies first before dipping in an onsen. It’s widely popular because of its impressive health benefits.
Its heat acts as thermal therapy, improves your mood and mental health, boosts metabolism, and promotes better blood circulation.
It also has beneficial substances and minerals that can help cure ailments, keep your skin looking young, and help in your overall wellness.
Dr. Shinya Hayasaka, a medical doctor and professor at Tokyo City University, studied onsen’s health benefits and outlined them in three points.
He said, “There are three main health benefits of bathing regularly: heat, buoyancy, and hydrostatic pressure. Good personal hygiene and cleanliness are also beneficial for health, of course, but this can be obtained just as well by taking a shower. For the other three, though, you need to immerse yourself in hot water.”
As you go through our article, you will understand more about how onsen’s benefits can improve your overall health.
The 6 Best Onsen Health Benefits
Here, we listed the top 6 reasons why you should soak up in a Japanese onsen. We listed down the health benefits you can enjoy in this therapeutic and healing bath.
- Improves Blood Circulation And Metabolism
- Relieves Pain And Sore Muscles
- Reduce Stress
- Better Sleep
- Restores And Cures
- Boosts Metabolism
1. Improves Blood Circulation
The heat in an onsen can make your blood vessels dilate, improving their circulation.
As you soak in an onsen with a temperature of at least 38oC, your body’s temperature rises, leading to your arteries relaxing and expanding.
When this happens, the blood can now easily transfer oxygen and nutrition to all the cells in the rest of your body.
“It is this boost to the circulation that is responsible for the restorative feeling you get when you soak in the bath, as if the accumulated fatigue of the day is floating away on a cloud of steam,” Dr. Hayasaka explained.
Read More: Best Herbs For Blood Circulation
2. Relieves Pain and Sore Muscles
A good soaking in an onsen can also alleviate your body pains and sore muscles. It does this through its heat and buoyancy.
The heat in hydrotherapy reduces the sensitivity of your nerves, so it lessens pains and aches, especially in your shoulder and back areas.1
It even triggers the softening of the ligaments around the joints, so you feel relieved. As buoyancy supports your body, it alleviates stress from your joints, spine, and limbs.
3. Reduce Stress
Soaking up in an onsen is an excellent way to calm your mind and reduce stress. If you’ve been feeling down or experiencing fatigue lately, a good bath time in an onsen could do the trick.
Due to buoyancy, your body starts to float in water, making it feel lighter and relaxing. Aside from relieving muscle tension, it has a meditative effect that clears your mind and calms you down.
Soaking in an onsen can also improve your breathing. The warm water and the hydrostatic pressure, the pressure your body feels as it gets submerged in water, increases your lung capacity and oxygen intake.2
It can calm your heart rate and lower your cortisol or stress hormone as your deep breathing improves. Studies show that individuals who regularly enjoy hot springs have reduced their fatigue and stress levels and have increased feelings of happiness and sound sleep.3
4. Better Sleep
Immersing your body in an onsen can give you better sleep. As your body experiences hydrostatic pressure due to being submerged in water, it relaxes, and your blood circulation improves.
Studies show that taking a warm bath like in an onsen with a temperature of more or less 40oC could make you fall to sleep quickly and deeply. The hot water lowers your body temperature, preparing you for rest.4
Read More: Things Not To Do Before You Sleep and Why!
5. Restores And Cures
The volcanic nature of a natural onsen has been known for its therapeutic and restorative health benefits. A natural onsen contains beneficial minerals or substances such as sulfur, sodium chloride, hydrogen carbonate, iron, silica, and many others.
Onsen rich in sulfur can cure skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and eczema.
Read More: Best Herbs For Eczema
The silica in an onsen can also do wonders on dry and flaky skin as it can rejuvenate them.
Japan’s onsens have been called the “waters of youth” during ancient times. It’s because it has a “restorative power” that can improve your skin and bring back its youthful glow.
Onsen therapy has long been used in Japan as “toji,” or the practice of bathing in an onsen as a medical treatment. It is used to treat burns, atopic dermatitis, and other gastrointestinal health issues.
6. Boosts Your Metabolism
Regular soaking in an onsen can also boost your metabolism. As your blood circulation improves, it also helps your body improve its metabolism, leading to weight loss.
A study shows that submerging in hot water can improve inflammation and metabolism in overweight individuals. According to the study, a spike in the body’s temperature after immersing in a warm bath results in the release of anti-inflammatory markers that boost glucose metabolism in overweight males.5
Glucose metabolism is the process of the breakdown of carbs and simple sugars into glucose that gets delivered to the rest of the body’s cells. A fast glucose metabolism means more carbs get burned instead of being stored in the body.
Similar Article: 10 Fruits To Boost Your Metabolism
Onsen Health Benefits – In Short
I hope this list is helpful as you look into why you should try Japan’s famous onsens.
These “healing baths” will provide meditative therapy that clears your mind and improves mental health. A Japanese onsen can do wonders to your overall health as it is beneficial to your physical body inside and outside.
Matsuda Tadanori, a Professor of Onsen Studies in the Faculty of Tourism at Sapporo International University, shared how onsen cleanses both body and soul.
“For Japanese people, making oneself clean on the inside, or cleansing of the soul, is included in the action of refreshing the physical body while washing away sweat and dirt,” he added.
So, go and enjoy soaking up in a soothing and healing Japanese onsen!
If you want to try other Spa treatment, you can also read the health benefits of Hammam!