As a tourist with tattoos in Japan, I have found it difficult to experience the benefits of a traditional Onsen.
On many occasions I have not been able to enter the relaxing waters at both public baths and Ryokans, much to the disappointment of my body which had been carrying around a heavy backpack for weeks.
However, all of that changed when I came across the Hyotan Hot Springs in Beppu. The town is known as the Onsen capital of Japan, famous for its natural hot springs, onsen and sand baths. I was informed by the tourist office in Beppu that tattoos were allowed at Hyotan Hot Springs and I contemplated running there in excitement.
Hyotan Hot Springs has been providing relaxing baths to the public since 1922. To use this onsen there are a few procedures to follow before you can get to the bathing. At the reception, you can place your shoes in a small locker and make your way to the ticket machine. You have two options, to use the main bath house with 8 hot springs or to add a sand bath to your experience. A sand bath is where you are buried in hot sand for 15 minutes and left to relax in the heavy warmth. I had already had a sand bath the day prior so I headed towards the main bath house. There are of course, separate facilities for men and women.
Eight different hot springs flll the bath houses for both men and women. They vary from shallow warm pools, hot deeper pools, outdoor steam pools, and the 19 spout waterfall pool. Like any other public bathing house you need to wash before entering the baths at the section with small stools and buckets.
After spending the best part of an hour jumping from pool to pool, I made my way back to the changing rooms. I dressed and sat with the other women while saying“ hotto!”, fanning our faces and laughing.
Once back in the communal area, you have the option of a throat steam bath and ice creams from vending machines. There is also a variety of take away and dine in food cooked on premises by the steam of the hot springs.
As I dragged my relaxed body back to the reception area to retrieve my shoes, I sat for moment, to remember how good I felt.
It was a fantastic experience and one that I am glad to have had here in Japan.