Recently, I took my kids on vacation to Tokyo, with an overnight trip to Lake Kawaguchiko in the Fuji Five Lakes area. When I started researching hotels, I noticed that many had on-site onsens. I had heard of the traditional geothermal baths, or hot springs, but the closest I had ever gotten to experiencing something like that were nude soaks in the gender-specific pools at a Korean-style spa near my home near Washington, DC.
As I began learning more about this Japanese communal bathing practice, I had questions, including whether we’d be allowed entry with tattoos, and how one of my children (a non-binary young adult) would navigate a very gender-specific activity.
Here’s what I learned about the culture around Japanese onsen, and what I wish I would have known before my experience.