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Konyoku Onsen - Mixed Onsen in Japan

Konyoku Mixed Onsen Japan

Do you know what is a konyoku? If you do great! If you don’t, today you will learn!

Table of Contents

Introduction

When you say hot spring, one of the first places that may come to mind is Japan. However, in the native language, hot springs in Japan are called onsen, and it is one of the most sought places that tourists of this country visit. So, if you are planning to visit Japan, make sure to have your very own onsen experience before your trip ends.

Onsen Hot Spring In Japan Nishimuraya
Kichinoyū (waters of good fortune) bath within the main building of Nishimuraya (Photography: Nishimuraya)

Are there mixed baths in Japan?

Yes, there are mixed baths in Japan and they are called Konyoku. But to learn about them, you must first hear about other types of onsen.

Onsens have been one of the most popular places for relaxation for both locals and tourists in the country. Hence, it is of no surprise if there are several onsen to choose from when you visit Japan.

Difference between rotenburo, utaseyu, and konyoku

There is the so-called rotenburo or an open-air bath which is typically an accompaniment of huge public onsens. There is also the utaseyu which literally means beating water. In utaseyu, you will see water streaming from its source, which will steadily beat and relax your back if you go under it. Another type of Onsen is the Onsen for couples, where lovers will have a completely private onsen for themselves. And lastly, the most controversial and rare Onsen is called konyoku. Like I said before, they are mixed gender onsens.

If you are curious and interested in konyoku Onsen, here are some of the facts that make it one of the most controversial Onsen of all and the reasons why its popularity has dwindled over the past years.

Okushiobara Onsen In Tochigi Prefecture
Outdoor onsen in Tochigi Prefecture (Photography: Shimofujiya)

A Glimpse of Konyoku History

The popularization of the konyoku bath

Due to the absence of bathing facilities in households during the early age of Japan, most locals, men and women alike, prefer to bathe naked in onsens near their area. This is where the mixed-gender bath started and is basically the konyoku meaning.
Konyoku onsen or mixed onsen has been one part of the Japanese bathing culture that has been deeply ingrained in the history and tradition of Japan. In fact, scholars claim that records of the konyoku bath can be dated to the 9th century. Some even claim that mixed Onsen started even before the 9th century.

Decline of the mixed gender onsen in Japan

However, during Post-World War II, when Japan decided to open its ports to other nations, laws against konyoku baths have been passed to lift the country’s image. Since many viewed bathing naked as lewd and vulgar, these laws especially targeted the konyoku nude Japanese bathhouse.
On the other hand, there are still those who fight for the continuation of this practice claiming that this is a Japanese culture that must be treasured and maintained. Unfortunately, this did not prevent the slow fall of establishments with Onsen mixed-gender baths and is now treated as some of the rare places in the country.

Problems with nude onsen

Another reason for the dwindling of konyoku onsen is the constant violation of onsen goers to the rules and regulations set by the establishments. Continued complaints of lewd acts by locals and tourists have been reported in these places, which added to the decreasing popularity of konyoku nude Onsen. It has become very controversial that it has been compared to sento and regular onsen or the public baths, which are also dotted in Japanese communities. Sento, unlike the rare konyoku, can also be easily accessed and has been accepted by most.

Sento vs Onsen

Some of you might not know this, but the key difference between sento and onsen is the fact that onsen uses natural spring water while sento doesn’t. As such, sento appears in a wide variety of locations. Not just in places where there are plenty of natural hot springs. Now back to our topic of the day, konyoku.

Beppu Onsen In Oita Prefecture Building
Beppu Onsen in Oita Prefecture (Photography: Beppu Tourism Division)

What is the Best Place for Mixed Gender Bath in Japan?

If you want to relax in a mixed-gender bath in Japan with your loved one, you have two options. You can either find a konyoku or get a private onsen.

Some of the Popular Konyoku in Japan

Here are some of the places where you can still find and feel the authentic konyoku onsen experience.

  1. The Miyato Ryokan, which is located in Chichibu Saitama.
  2. The Rurikei Onsen in Kyoto.
  3. The Hirauchi Kaichu Mixed Onsen, which can be found in Kagoshima.
  4. The Hozantei is well-known in Kumamoto.
  5. The Fukumotoya Kabeyu is securely placed in Oita.
  6. Dantoukan Kikunoya found in Shiga.
  7. The Tsuboyu Onsen is popular in Wakayama.
  8. Yumori Tanakaya is located in Nasushiobara City.
  9. Spa World, which is highly-visited in Osaka.

Private Onsen - Ideal Onsen for Couples who Love Privacy

On a more private note, you can also explore the private onsen in many places. Here you can enjoy freely and without hesitation the benefits of bathing in a hot spring. With the fear of onsen nudity behind you, you are free to relax on your own or with an SO. These Onsen are more designed for those who are more conscious with flaunting their bare skin and body but can still enjoy the benefits of an onsen. Many ryokans all over Japan offer options of private hot baths included with your room. For example Hotel Iya Onsen or the great Shibu Onsen Kokuya.

Kurokawa Onsen In Kumamoto Prefecture Onsen And Nature
Outdoor onsen surrounded with untouched nature (Photography: Yamamizuki)

Are Konyoku Safe to Visit?

Yes, most Konyoku are safe to visit for everyone. In order to maintain the safety and comfort of its customers, konyoku nude onsens nowadays often assign staff to observe the place. Hence, you can rest assured that your personal space will be respected in the present konyoku onsens.
Also, to avoid previous complaints regarding konyoku Onsen from happening again, most konyoku Onsen today have installed extra precautionary measures to uphold the wholesomeness of their place. Aside from that, there are also several benefits that a nude onsen bath can provide you.

Benefits of Bathing in Konyoku Onsen

There are many Konyoku benefits for your body just like in regular onsen. One of the most known benefits of bathing naked in an onsen is that it can treat and heal skin problems. In fact, it is said that during the early ages of Japan, samurais have constantly visited onsens in order for them to heal their wounds after a fight.
This is because Japanese onsen usually has numerous mineral qualities present in it. Aside from minerals, most Onsen contains silica which can soften your skin and make it smoother. There is also Onsen which has sulfur in its water which is very good for people suffering from eczema as well as psoriasis. As a matter of fact, several onsens have been known to beautify skin.

Good effect on blood circulation

Increasing blood circulation is also one of the most popular onsen benefits. This is due to the calcium and sodium bicarbonate absorbed by our body once we soaked in Onsen nude. In addition to this, the minerals present in the water can help increase your blood flow. It will also aid in increasing the amount of oxygen in your blood.

Reduces stress

Another benefit of the konyoku bath is reducing stress. The hot temperature in water can help in relieving muscle tenseness. The beautiful sceneries, especially outside konyoku onsens, are also a big factor in reducing the stress of onsen goers. As a result, you can be sure of a better and sound sleep after a good soak in the hot waters of Onsen. Hence, it has been called the ultimate bathing experience one can have.

Helps with muscle pains

And lastly, if you are experiencing muscle pains, onsen baths are one of the safest pain relievers, which is highly recommended in Japan. The hot temperature of the water will help dull the pain in your muscles and joints.

How long to stay in an Onsen?

However, bear in mind that a long soak in an onsen may not be good for you. onsen temperature typically reaches 42 degrees Celsius. Thus, in terms of how long to stay in Onsen, it is advised that ten to fifteen minutes is enough for you to enjoy the experience. Otherwise, you may feel light-headed, or you may lose consciousness.

All these benefits are present in a regular onsen, but in konyoku, you can enjoy the company of your significant other. Many people find that romantic and rewarding.

Tsurunoyu Onsen Akita Prefecture Winter View With Snow
Unique onsen where you can experience wonderful ancient atmosphere. (Photography: Tsurunoyu Onsen)

Rules When Visiting a Mixed Onsen

If you are interested in visiting konyoku Onsen, you must strictly follow its rules and regulations in order for you to avoid being kicked out. Here are some of the general do’s and don’ts when visiting a konyoku onsen to help you with.

You must bathe in a konyoku onsen nude

Unless stated otherwise, bath naked. Bathing nude is one of the aged rules in onsens. However, in the case of konyoku, women are sometimes allowed to soak in the water with their towels or bathing suits. You will know this just by observing the konyoku bathhouse you are visiting. See if there are towel rental options in the lobby.
If there is, that means you can soak in their onsen properly covered. For men, although they typically go bare naked, some konyoku will still provide them with a smaller towel to cover whatever needs to be covered. If unsure, you can always ask the staff about your concerns.

Don't stare at other people

Never stare. Always keep this rule in mind unless you want to be kicked out or called a wani. Wani literally means crocodile or those who wait in the Onsen just to ogle at someone. And this does not only apply to konyoku Onsen. It is always unethical to stare at someone. Remember, when you find yourself in an onsen naked with other people around, be polite and don’t stare.

Don't let your hair touch the water

For women with long hair, always bring with you a hair tie. Always remember that if your hair is too long to touch the water, tie it up before soaking in the hot spring.

Don't converse loudly

If you have someone with you, converse in a hushed tone. Be reminded that Onsen is meant to be relaxing and peaceful for everyone. Hence, conversing loudly will ultimately disrupt and annoy other customers who seek rest and relaxation.

Onsen Fresh Water From The Hot Spring

Last Thoughts on Mixed Gender Onsen

As of today, there are only a hundred or more konyoku Onsen in Japan. It is a dwindling Japanese culture that may become forgotten in the future. Thus, if you are going to spend your vacation in Japan and you are up for the challenge, you may want to add to your treasured memories the konyoku Onsen experience. Search for a konyoku that may meet your standards. The list mentioned above may help you with your search. Otherwise, you can always opt for a private Onsen to enjoy a hot soaked with beautiful scenery that can only be found in Japan.

Konyoku infographics showng the history, rules, and locations of some konyoku today.
Konyoku infographics showng the history, rules, and locations of some konyoku today.

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