My visit to an onsen in Japan came with some etiquette and rules to follow.

I Took An Onsen Bath In Japan & It Gave Me So Much Energy

The skin benefits were also noticeable after one dip.

Shutterstock/Elite Daily

Bathing in an “Onsen,” or hot spring, should be on any bucket list for Japan, even if you aren’t a big wellness girlie — although the physical and mental benefits are definitely part of the draw. Each of the country’s many natural hot springs includes at least one of 19 beautifying and health-boosting minerals. You can expect to leave your piping hot dip (on average, about 105.8 degrees) feeling baby smooth, rejuvenated, and pain-free — and many outdoor Onsens, or Roten-buro, are located in scenic places, giving the experience an element of wanderlust. When I was invited to visit Japan with Hyatt, I was excited to try an Onsen bath to see what the experience was like, and whether the health and beauty claims actually lived up to the hype.

A communal ritual that’s been around for thousands of years, Onsen bathing has strict hygiene rules for bathers even before you step foot in the hot springs. Unless you are in a private Onsen, you’ll be bathing together, naked, with other people. To ensure you’re as clean as possible, you need to thoroughly wash yourself before getting into the water, avoid dipping your hair or towel in the water, and don’t eat or drink in the Onsen. Unsurprisingly, scrolling during your Onsen visit isn’t a thing because phones are also not allowed in the bathing area. Some Onsens also prohibit visible tattoos, but they’re allowed at the Onsen at Fuji Speedway Hotel, part of the Unbound Collection by Hyatt, that was on my itinerary — much to the relief of the many tattooed journalists on the trip.

IMO, there’s nothing better than soaking in an outdoor hot tub when it’s cold out, and I was excited to learn Fuji Speedway Hotel’s outdoor Onsen has a close-up view of Mt. Fuji, Japan’s most iconic peak. It’s also a sulfate Onsen, which claims its mineral content is ideal for “beautifying skin” and “relaxing” bathers, according to the hotel’s Instagram. In addition to moisturizing and cleansing your skin, sulfate Onsens also reportedly have healing properties for people with joint pain and high blood pressure. Plus, soaking in hot water can increase your circulation and boost your metabolism.

Fuji Speedway Hotel

My Onsen Experience Was Initially A Little Stressful

Once we arrived at Fuji Speedway Hotel, the conversation quickly — and a little awkwardly — turned to the Onsen. Many of the journalists seemed uncomfortable with the idea of potentially bathing together, and one person summed up the group’s overall sentiments, telling everyone outright, “I love you guys, but I’m not going to the Onsen with you.”

I headed to the Onsen when it was still dark outside at 6 a.m., figuring fewer people were likely to be there, and was pleased to see that it was empty. I was also excited that I’d be able to see the sun rising above Mt. Fuji as an added bonus of getting out of bed early.

I almost committed my first Onsen faux pas before I even got into the dressing room. Shoes aren’t allowed in any part of the Onsen area, and I was initially stumped by the small entry room full of shoe cubbies before remembering. Pulling back a fabric curtain, I stepped into the dressing room, which had a water station, a row of lockers, and a vanity area with beauty and skin products to apply post-Onsen. I put on a fluffy white robe and left my phone in a locker before walking out into the indoor bathing area.

I was surprised to see it had a number of semi-enclosed marble washing stations with no curtains or doors, just two walls that came up to my waist. Each station had a wooden stool for you to sit on while you washed yourself, soaps, and a mirror, but the configuration made it so you were pretty much bathing out in the open. I was trying to figure out how to use the handheld hose when another woman walked in. Avoiding eye contact, I quickly washed myself off while crouched over the stool, and then sprinted out to the outdoor Onsen.

The cold, crisp air felt so refreshing after how steamy the washing room had been, and the sunrise view of Mt. Fuji with a red peak was breathtaking amidst the spring forest scenery. It almost felt like I was in a luxe outdoor hot tub, and even though we were in the middle of nature, I appreciated that it was very private with opaque glass panels lining one side of the Onsen bath.

Getting into the Onsen, I was surprised to see how clear the water was — uncomfortably clear. It looked like there was a slight film on top of the water, but I’d expected it to be much murkier based on some pictures of hot springs I’d seen online. I was mentally preparing myself when the other woman walked outside and also got in. After a few moments of subtly trying to cover myself, I began to relax once I noticed how nonchalant she seemed to be about the whole experience. I barely reacted when another woman joined us, and surprisingly, I almost forgot about being naked as the three of us silently watched the sun rise above the mountain, going from a bright red to the prettiest light pink. When I left the Onsen after about 30 minutes, I noticed I felt simultaneously relaxed but energized as I went to breakfast, despite the jet lag I’d been feeling.

Lara Walsh

Once I got over the awkwardness of my first Onsen experience, it didn’t feel uncomfortable for me again. One of the journalists I befriended on the trip decided to come with me to the Onsen the next day after we got massages in the late afternoon, and this time, I barely even noticed what could have been a potentially weird situation as we chatted about our travels and life in the bath. Since there was no one else there at that time, the staff also let us take photos of the space, which looked really stunning with the light streaming in.

After The Onsen, I Noticed Some Immediate Benefits

I religiously lather my skin with moisturizer post-shower most of the time, but I purposefully didn’t after going to the Onsen to see if there was any noticeable difference in how my skin felt. While going about my day, I noticed that my skin felt really soft and I didn’t have any of the tightness or itchiness I normally get when I forget to put on lotion. However, for me, the best part was how great I felt after going to the Onsen.

Every morning that I went to the Onsen, I felt significantly more energetic post-bath, even before having coffee. The one time I went to the Onsen at night, I noticed I fell asleep much faster than normal and slept through the night, despite generally struggling with jet lag during my trip. I also noticed I felt really relaxed during the days I visited the Onsen, even though I was constantly on the go.

It really felt like the ultimate self-care ritual to have part of my day dedicated to spending time in nature without a phone, soaking in the hot water, and getting some skin care benefits while I was at it. Until I’m able to make it back to Japan, I’ll be mimicking the experience at home in the States as much as possible by taking more baths, which also have some similar mental and physical health benefits.