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My daughter is adopted from near Tokyo and my wife is from Osaka. As a result, I have visited Japan going on eight times in the past fifteen years. Only this year did I finally start studying the language. Shame on me, I know. With my wife to translate and my job taking my time, the last thing I ever wanted to do was to spend more time on a computer or hunched over paper with pen. And I refused to let my wife or daughter teach me. Go figure.

Since my first trip to Japan, the pervasive onsen, or public bath, were always the highlight of my visits. I am a vegetarian so eating out in Japan causes more stress than pleasure, especially for my wife who has to embarrass herself by trying to figure out how to get me food with no meat or fish. Sometimes I’m asked to stay home when the family goes out to eat since many restaurants just cannot accommodate me. I’ve been vegetarian for over thirty-five years, so I don’t see this changing anytime. As a result I love onsen all the more .

Espeically the public-style onsen. They charge less and are better quality than the private-style establishments. That being said, the former are bare bones — they do one thing only and they do it well. You often have to bring your own towel, your own soap and shampoo, and change for the lockers. NOTE: you get the change back after you return the key into the cylinder— I made the mistake of assuming that there was a fee for the locker, leaving my coin in the machine. I came back later and it was still there.

The private option is much more like a resort with, to use the bath my family goes to as an example, a massive manga library for the kids to enjoy reading, a small shopping area to buy vegetables for dinner and snacks, ice cream concession, a napping area, television lounge, massage chairs, and many other perks. The private baths also have a huge array of different types of pools and saunas like a rubber ducky pool for kids, traditional cauldron baths, water jet massages, and a salt sauna where you scrub your body with handfuls of salt.

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