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Bathing in an onsen is certainly a quintessential aspect of Japanese culture. Extremely few countries have public baths like the ones in Japan. Towels and swimsuits are not allowed in the actual bath itself as a means to keep the water pure/clean which means everybody is naked. Though bathing tends to be a communal and sometimes social event, men and women now generally bathe separately. There are also rules you must follow while in the onsen, one of the most important being washing yourself before getting into the bath. Because it is a communal bath, anyone who enters the bath must be thoroughly washed beforehand. In any Japanese bath, there will always be a row or multiple rows of sitting shower stalls where you can wash yourself usually with complimentary body wash, shampoo, and etc. Though bathing naked with strangers with only a small towel for cover can be a daunting experience, it is one well worth trying, for any concerns about modesty - and any other worries at all - melt away in the steaming water.
Different minerals provide different health benefits, and relaxing effect.
Japanese Style and Western Style Toilets
Traditional Japanese Experience at a Ryokan