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There’s just something about hot springs that Singaporeans can’t enough of. As long as we are in Japan, we will make sure to set aside a day (or two) for a good ol’ soaking session. Onsen is the traditional practice of relaxing in a pool of hot groundwater, usually naturally above 25 degrees Celsius (geothermally heated) and chock full of skin-loving minerals and elements. The age-old ritual is said to work magic on stress- and skin-related ailments, and boosts overall wellness by improving blood circulation and detoxifying the body.
However, the luxury of an onsen experience is often closed to those with tattoos. Tattoos are still considered taboo in Japan, which is why most of the traditional ryokan inns and public bathhouses turn tattooed guests away. But before you Miami Ink fanatics flip the table, there is hope! Onsen facilities that allow tattoos are very rare, but exist nonetheless. Here are our top five.
#1 Hoshino Resorts
This mega hotel chain made waves when they announced last year that their hot spring resorts are going to accommodate guests with small tattoos. Their new rule (effective October 2016) is that as long as it can be covered by the 8cm by 10cm waterproof “stickers” provided, you may enter. This change was apparently sparked by feedback from a Maori visitor, who was denied entry. The Hoshino Resorts have 14 outlets, each with a different theme. We recommend trying KAI Anjin, in Ito, Shizuoka. Named after an English sailor, the resort has nautical décor and offers stunning views of the ocean (from all the rooms, and the top floor bath).
#2 Yamato no yu
Address: 〒286-0841 1630 ohtake, Narita, Chiba, JAPAN; Tel: 0476-28-8111
Open 10am – 10pm daily, entry fee from 800 JPY (adult). For ages 6 and up. No reservations, walk-in only.
Located conveniently near Narita Airport, the Yamato No Yu is one of the rare establishments which proudly declare its tattoo-friendliness on its website’s FAQ page. The reason behind this: Yamato No Yu believes that tattoos have moved away from the negative associations of the past, and are now commonly seen as a fashion statement. The waters here are rich in sodium chloride and hydrogen carbonate, and are suitable for those with tense muscles, burns, and more. (Note: Unsuitable for pregnant ladies.)
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#3 Tenzan Tohji-kyo
Address: 208 Yumotochaya, Ashigarashimo-gun, Hakone-machi 250-0312 , Kanagawa Prefecture; Tel: +81 460 86 4126
Open 9am – 10pm daily, entry fee is 1,300 JPY (adult).
Located 2km away from the heart of Hakone, this bathhouse is very popular amongst tourists visiting the area. And many tourists have tattoos, right? It is accessible via the shuttle bus (B course) from Hakone-Yumoyo Station. Tenzan offers two types of baths: The chloride spring to improve blood circulation, and the alkaline one to soothe poor skin.
Address: Jozankei 608-2, Minami-ku, Sappro-city Hokkaido, 061-2301 Japan
Open 10.00am to 10.30pm daily (last entry at 9.45pm), entry fee is 1,000 JPY (adults). No reservations, walk-in only.
There’s more to Sapporo than just ramen, alright? Hoheikyo prides itself for using 100 percent spring water. That’s right—it’s completely undiluted, and goes straight from the spring into the bath. The piping ensures there’s no exposure to air to prevent oxidation. As water is constantly being pumped into the pool (and the overflowing excess tossed), the waters are also free of chlorine. There are three open-air baths: Fukuro and Yuyu Onsen (open to men on even days, and women on odd days), and the Muine Onsen (open to men on odd days, and women on even days). The joint also offers other activities like canoeing, rafting, and camping, but prior booking is required for these.
Disclaimer: Due to the negative associations of tattoos, onsen facilities rarely advertise themselves as tattoo-friendly even if they are. To avoid disappointment, it is best to call or write in before planning a trip down.
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