Ever since my virgin onsen experience in Japan, I fell in love with the unique and unforgettable bath culture that is onsen. There is no better sensation then soaking away all your exhaustion in a huge pool of steaming hot water. If I had to describe what the experience is like in one word, I would use the word “BLISS”. Once you get over the mental challenge of undressing and being nude in a public space, visiting an onsen is an extremely enjoyable and pleasurable experience.

If you are an onsen lover like me, you will be delighted to hear that you do not have to fly all the way to Japan, Korea or Taiwan to experience an onsen. You can do it right here in Singapore! Where are the onsens? Read on to find out more! If you are a newbie, and are unsure of the dos and don’ts in an onsen, then this article is perfect for you too!

What is an Onsen?

Outdoor onsen in Japan
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

An onsen 温泉 is a natural hot spring bath. They are extremely common in Japan and are considered an integral part of life there.  Onsen water is usually obtained from natural sources underground. To be officially considered a true onsen, the water must contain at least one of the 19 designated chemical elements that naturally occur in hot spring water, and it must be at least 25 Deg C when it comes out of the ground. However, this definition has been diluted in modern day use and an Onsen is simply used to refer to a communal public hot bath.

How to Onsen?

There are quite a few rules of etiquette surrounding onsen bathing, and this can make the whole thing seem a little scary and uncomfortable when you’re not sure what you’re doing – but once you’ve done it once you’ll realise that it’s really not that complicated after all.

1. Get Naked!

All onsens will require you to strip down to your birthday suit! Not a single article of clothing will be allowed into the bathing areas. This is usually the portion that puts people off. However, once you’ve tried it, you will realise that no one really cares or looks at you. As such, the self-consciousness fades away pretty quickly. Anyway, once you are submerged in the water, nothing can be seen anymore.

Do: Strip down to your birthday suit and place your clothes into the lockers provided. If you treat it like it is no big deal, no one will bat an eyelid to your stripping down.

Don’t: Do not stare at others. Brief eye contact is acceptable and unavoidable. However, it is considered extremely rude to stare at another person for a prolonged period of time.

Do not make fun or judge another person’s body. The onsen is a space that is meant for everyone. As such, everyone has the right to enjoy their onsen experience. It is not right to make another person feel self-conscious or uncomfortable. The onsen should be a judgment-free zone.

2. Shower before you soak

Shower Cubicles in an onsen
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Usually, there is a separate area next to the soaking baths where you can shower. The soaking pools are meant to be clean. As such, you will have to clean yourselves before you get into the pools.

Most places will provide you with shampoo, soap, and conditioner. However, it is always good to check whether you need to bring your own. If you prefer using your own products, feel free to bring them along. If you wish to do so, you may take a quick shower after you have completed soaking in the baths.

Do:  Shower before entering the baths. If you get out to use the sauna or steam room, it is good etiquette to take a quick shower before re-entering the baths. Also, stay seated while showering. It’s considered bad manners to stand up while you wash, as you might splash one of the people next to you.

Don’t:  Do not enter the baths before showering. You should also never enter the baths when soapy. This dirties the water and will inconvenience everyone who wants to use the onsen.

3. Make use of the towels

Towels on head in Onsen
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

At any regular onsen, you will be provided with a small and a large towel. The large towel is for drying yourself after you have completed your bath. While the small towel is usually known as the modesty towel and can be taken into the bathing area.

Do:  Leave the large towel in the changing room along with your clothes. Bring the small towel in with you. many people like to douse them with water while showering and place them on their heads.

Don’t:  Do not place the towels into the baths. It is considered unsanitary to submerge your towel into the baths.

4. Hair & head

This may seem like common sense, but if you have long hair, do bring along a hairband or a hair tie to bun up your hair. It is not sanitary to allow your hair to enter the bath water.

You should also refrain from putting your head underwater. This is so as there is a small chance that the shared water may carry infection. As such, putting your head underwater increases your risk of catching something. Of course, this seldom is the case. But it is always better to be safe than sorry!

5. Noise

While an onsen is a place to relax, it is also a place to socialise. As such, it is okay to chat with your friend and make a reasonable amount of noise. Just do not become rowdy and disruptive.

Where to Onsen in Singapore?

1. Yunomori Onsen Singapore

Yunomori spa interior baths
Image Credit: Yunomori Spa Facebook

Yunomori Onsen Spa in Singapore spans a whopping area of 16,000 square feet. Nestled within Kallang Wave Mall at Singapore Sports Hub, the spa is easily accessible via Stadium MRT station (not Kallang Station).

Yunomori roughly translates into hot water within a forest. And Yunomori really tries to live up to its name! This onsen spa in Singapore is a place of peace and relaxation, it is somewhere to unwind and forget about the ups and downs of life.

Yunomori boasts a total of 11 hot water baths, with 5 pools in the women’s section of the spa and another 6 in the men’s. The women’s section boasts a bubble bath, soda spa, jet bath, silk bath, and cold bath. While the men’s has exactly the same but with an additional hot water pool which goes up to 44 deg C!

Soda Bath
Image Credit: Yunomori Spa Facebook 

Some of the more unique baths are the Soda bath, the Silk bath, and the Cold Bath. The soda bath is often touted to improve blood circulation. This is so as the soda bath contains a high concentration of carbon dioxide which purportedly helps to improve blood circulation.

The silk bath boasts jets which pump hydrogen-containing microbubbles into the pool, giving it its signature frothy look. The micro-bubbles are said to relax muscles and improve skin elasticity.

The cold bath is pretty much self-explanatory. However, be warned this bath is not for the faint-hearted as the water is freezing cold! However, it is said that cold baths have some sort of healing effect and is a method often used by sports therapists.

Apart from the pools, Yunomori also has other facilities such as a steam room, sauna, resting and treatment rooms. As such when you are not in the baths you can hop into one of these rooms for a rest or a massage! Additionally, It is not advisable to spend more than 20-30min in the baths. So do change out, take a rest before heading back in!

All in all, Yunomori is a great place to chill out and relax at. At only $38+ for unlimited access to all the facilities! Yunomori is definitely the place to hit up for an Onsen fix!

  • Price: Children and Seniors: $28++ Adults: $38++ This gives you access to all the onsen facilities for the entire day. If you want to pamper yourself even more, consider topping-up for a massage.

– Thai Traditional Massage: $88+ for 60 min

– Aroma Oil: $138+ for 90 min

– Foot Massage: $38+ for 30 min

– Head and Shoulder Massage: $38 for 30 min

  • Address: Kallang Wave Mall #02-17/18, 1 Stadium Place, Singapore 397628
  • Opening Hours: 10am to 11pm daily
  • Contact Details: +65 6386 4126 / +65 6385 7985

2. Ikeda Spa

Public onsen bath
Image Credit: Ikeda Spa

Located in Bukit Timah and Clarke Quay, Ikeda Spa aims to create a quaint sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Nestled within a stunning landscape of lush greenery, stepping into Ikeda Spa gives you the illusion that you have been transported to Japan.

Ikeda Spa offers the run of the mill massage therapy sessions. However, in addition to that, Ikeda spa is also home to Singapore’s first Japanese communal bathing facility. The onsen water here is maintained at a steaming hot temperature of 42 Deg C. In addition, the water is further enriched with healing minerals extracted from natural hot springs in Japan. When absorbed by the skin, these minerals melt away any stress, anxiety, aches, and pain.

If you are too shy to engage in communal bathing, Ikeda Spa offers VIP couple spa suites that have an en-suite Rotenburo outdoor hot tub. This unique hot tub is handcrafted with Japan’s most prized hinoki (Japanese cypress) wood that was once reserved for royalty. As such, a soak in this exquisite wooden tub will certainly make you feel like royalty. Also, the spa water is enriched with aromatic onsen bath salts which imbue the bath with healing benefits. This coupled with a massage will result in the ultimate holistic healing experience!

Apart from the onsen baths, Ikeda Spa has a whole range of other facilities such as a Japanese Zen Garden where you can engage and experience a simple chado (Japanese tea ceremony).  To wrap up your visit, you can chill out in a Yukata and rest in their Zen Finishing Studio or Tatami Zen Lounge. These are great places to spend quality ‘me’ time to recuperate and revitalise.

  • Price: Hinoki Onsen Bath: $80 for 30 mins, Hinoki Onsen Bath (couple): $120 for 30 mins. Other therapies and massages have their own prices, do check out Ikeda Spa for more details.
  • Address: 787 Bukit Timah Rd, Singapore 269762 or 6 Eu Tong Sen Street, #05-22 Clarke Quay Central, Singapore 059817
  • Opening Hours: Bukit Timah: 1.30 – 10.30pm daily. Clarke Quay: 1.00 – 10.00 pm daily.
  • Contact Details: +65 6388 8080 /  ikedaspa.com

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Featured Image credit: Yunomori Onsen & Spa Kallang Wave Facebook Page

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