Lessons I Learned About Body Positivity After Visiting A Japanese Hot Spring
Self-love begins with accepting your body
An onsen (hot spring) allows you to rejuvenate, cleanse and bond deeper with your body.
I am probably one of the few Indians brave enough to visit an onsen in Japan. Where I am from, it is unheard of in our culture to bathe naked among strangers—or even friends and family. We’re taught from a young age to respect our bodies by covering up. Most Indian families encourage modest dressing too. Any clothing item revealing too much skin is a big no-no. Because of my upbringing, I had a tough time initially adjusting to the onsen culture in Japan.
My first onsen experience took place in Hakone in 2017. My sister and I were backpacking around the country and wanted to experience a part of Japanese culture firsthand. Visiting a hot spring together has always been on our travel bucket list, and now that we were in Japan, we could finally tick it off the list.
I admired how free and comfortable they seemed with their bodies.
I found the onsen experience very eye-opening. It was the first time for me to see women being comfortable with nudity and using the place as an opportunity to bond with their friends and family. I admired how free and comfortable they seemed with their bodies. This experience inspired me to build a similar relationship with mine. It wasn’t something that happened overnight, though. I had to broaden my perspective and rethink some of my beliefs.
The more time I spent in the hot spring, the more comfortable I felt in my own skin. Along the way, I learned a few valuable lessons about body positivity, which I would like to share with you.
We’re more conscious of our bodies than those around us
It took me a couple of trips to the hot spring to realize that the only person who was overly conscious of my body was myself. As long as I followed proper onsen etiquette, no one there seemed to mind whether my hair wasn’t in a perfect bun or that I had prominent love handles. Everyone was busy doing their own thing, focusing on themselves. It became a place where I could let down my walls without being judged.
Accepting your body boosts confidence
I admire how comfortable Japanese women are with their bodies in the onsen. No matter their age or physique, women don’t seem to be bothered by their tummy rolls, wrinkles, body hair, scars or marks on their bodies. Thanks to these women, I’ve gained a new level of confidence in my body. They taught me to accept it the way it is rather than wanting it to look a certain way. That realization itself is liberating.
Nudity is nothing to be ashamed of
I grew up in a society that often judged a woman’s character and morals based on her clothing choice. I was often fearful of getting ridiculed by random strangers—covering up my body felt like the safest option. The experience dented my relationship with my bare body. Both my self-confidence and body image took a hit in the process. If my sister hadn’t convinced me to visit an onsen, I doubt I would have ever gone to one.
Seeing women together in the onsen, comfortable with their bare bodies, inspired me to accept nudity and form a more positive body image.
The trip with my sister changed everything. I gained a fresh perspective on life and became more open to the concept of nudity. Seeing women together in the onsen, comfortable with their bare bodies, inspired me to accept nudity and form a more positive body image.
The importance of getting to know your body
I spent most of my life rarely developing a close relationship with my body. The onsen was my moment of awakening. Instead of feeling judged or looked down upon, I felt accepted by the women around me. This gave me the mindset and space I’d always needed to get to know my own body better. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of my body, taking a warm soak put me in tune with what was happening within. I submerged into a deep meditative state which allowed me to direct my attention to the uncomfortable areas in my body. Instead of fixating on how I looked, the onsen taught me to focus on releasing the tension and pain my body has gone through living out day-to-day life.
Self-care effectuates self-love and happiness
When I’m in the onsen, all the stress in my body magically melts away. The warm water, soothing sounds and overall atmosphere make me feel at one with nature and my existence. I come out feeling relaxed, clear-headed and refreshed. Onsen gives me those few precious hours of me-time to detox, embrace body insecurities and have honest conversations with myself. My skin glows brighter, my muscles relax and my body radiates positive energy. In a way, this place has become one of my favorite self-care rituals for a happier mind and body.
The onsen has become an important part of my life here in Japan. I often visit alone to unwind, relax and take a break from reality. The experience has pushed me out of my comfort zone, challenged my core beliefs and introduced me to self-love. Onsen taught me to treat my body with more kindness and reverence. I wish you all the same experience.