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Japan Travel Tips

Perfect Trip Guide

Japan Travel Tips

Perfect trip Guide

Unique Sauna Culture in Japan

Onsen (hot springs)

Wed, 23 Aug 2023

Did you know that saunas are becoming a hot trend in Japan lately?

Once upon a time, saunas in Japan seemed to be an older folk's hobbies. But today, the sauna is something like a boom among young people in Japan. The relaxation from alternating between hot saunas and cold baths, a feeling known in Japan as "Totonoi," is something every sauna lover has to experience. When you've reached the peak of relaxation, you've "Totonotta!"

What's unique about the recent sauna wave in Japan? Well, they've embraced Finland's "Loyly" culture of throwing water on hot stones, and Germany's "Aufguss" performance using towels. In 2022, Japan even made its debut in the Aufguss World Championships.

Let's dive into Japan's latest sauna happenings.

Japan's Sauna Culture

Japan Sauna Culture

What makes Japanese saunas a blast?

  • Onsen (Hot Springs) + Sauna Combo: Get steamy in the hot spring, then get in the sauna. It's relaxation heaven!
  • Women friendly: Saunas in Japan are separated between men and women. Ladies-only saunas are popping up. Get ready, girls!
  • Cool Down in a Cold Bath: After the fabulous heat, take a plunge in a chilly bath and feel invigorated.

Japan's sauna culture has been simmering for centuries, taking some interesting twists different from its European counterparts.

In recent decades, it's a bubbling trend attracting everyone from the young to the old. Ready to jump into the steamy details? Let's go!

Japan vs Europe

If you've ever had a sauna experience in Europe, Japan's saunas might leave you both intrigued and bewildered. Here's a snapshot comparing Japanese saunas to European ones.


Japanese Sauna

European Sauna


High (100°C or above), Low Humidity

Low (around 80°C), High Humidity


Often inside hot springs, public baths

Large spa resorts, lakeside cabins



Nude in Germany/Netherlands, swimsuits in Finland/UK


Hot bath before the sauna

In Finland, natural saunas by the lake or sea


Super affordable, often included in hot spring fees

Slightly expensive

Dry Saunas Rule in Japan

In Japan, dry saunas are the big thing. Hotter (close to 100°C) and less humid compared to European saunas.

While "Loyly" (water splashed on stove) is frequent in other countries, traditional Japanese dry saunas prohibit it. The stoves, though adorned with stones, aren't designed for water, and pouring can lead to malfunctions.

In Japan, Saunas are not their Main Purpose

In Japan, hot springs and public baths are the stars; saunas are just the cherry on top. This sets Japan apart, especially when compared to Europe, where sauna resorts themselves are the main draw.

Because saunas often play a secondary role, the fees are frequently bundled with the entrance to the hot spring or bath.

Gender Separate and Swimsuit-Free

Most Japanese saunas are inside bath areas, segregated by gender, and swimsuits are a no-no.

However, the rise of outdoor saunas has seen an increase in mixed-gender spots where swimsuits are allowed. Unlike Germany or the Netherlands, mixed saunas in Japan require swimsuits. Ladies, rest assured, you can enjoy the sauna comfortably!

Watch TV in the Sauna!?

Especially in public baths, some Japanese saunas have TVs installed—a rare sight elsewhere.It seems to have been introduced to dispel boredom while warming up. Isn't it an interesting idea?

Japanese Sauna Etiquette

Sauna Etiquette in Japan

Planning to enjoy a sauna in Japan? There are some key differences from European saunas, and understanding the rules will make your experience more enjoyable. Here's what you need to know.

Shower First

Just like in other countries, make sure to wash your body before entering a hot spring or sauna in Japan. In most facilities, shampoo and body soap are provided.

Feel free to bring your favorite body soap if you prefer!

No Swimwear in the Sauna

Saunas located within bath areas prohibit swimwear. Additionally, similar to Japanese hot springs, these saunas are separated by gender.

Outdoor saunas are becoming more popular in Japan, and many of them allow mixed-gender bathing with swimwear.

No Need to Lay a Towel on the Sauna Bench

This may vary by facility, but generally, in Japan, you don't need to bring a towel into the sauna. Unlike saunas abroad, traditional Japanese saunas often have towels laid out on the benches already. Hence, there's no need to bring your beach towel into the sauna room.

But won't others' sweat be absorbed into the beach towel? Isn't that unhygienic? Don't worry! In Japan, people typically bring a plastic sauna mat instead of a beach towel. Since it's plastic, it repels water, keeping it clean.

Remember to rinse the sauna mat with water and put it back in its place after use.

No Talking in the Sauna

In Finland and Russia, saunas often play a social role, and conversations inside the sauna are common.

In Japan, however, talking is generally prohibited in the sauna. You're expected to silently feel the heat and relax. Seeing adults sitting close together on the benches without uttering a word might seem strange, but that's part of the Japanese sauna culture.

The Sauna Boom in Japan

The Sauna Boom In Japan

Has the sauna craze hit Japan? With the younger generation leading the charge, the sauna trend is heating up in the Land of the Rising Sun. Whether you want to melt away the stresses of modern life or experience the intriguing blend of old and new, local and global, Japan's sauna scene is one to watch. Let's take a look:

  • Influence of Finnish Saunas: Who's up for some löyly? The Finnish style is making waves in Japan.
  • Japanese Aufguss: 2022 saw Japan debut in the Aufguss World Championships. Talk about making a splash!
  • Outdoor Saunas: Lakeside and forest views, anyone? The new sauna boom has these relaxing spots popping up.
  • Affordable Luxury: Compared to Germany's high-end sauna resorts, Japan offers a touch of indulgence that won't break the bank.

Aufguss: When Germany Meets Japan

Originating in Germany, Aufguss has found a magical blend with Japanese sauna culture. Here’s the breakdown:

  • What is Aufguss?: In this German tradition, a "sauna master" pours water infused with essential oils over hot stones. The master then uses a towel to circulate aromatic steam, creating an invigorating experience.
  • Japan's Aufguss Adventure: What's the Japanese twist? Meticulous precision, artistry, and a fusion of traditional Japanese elegance with German vigor.
  • World Championships: Remember 2022? That's when Japan made its debut at the Aufguss World Championships. Wave-making news indeed!

Löyly: The Spirit of Finland in the Land of the Sun

Löyly may be quintessentially Finnish, but it's found a warm home in Japan's evolving sauna landscape. Here’s how:

  • What is Löyly?: Löyly involves throwing water onto hot stones to create steam, increasing humidity, and enhancing the sauna experience.
  • Japan's Löyly: Saunas allowing löyly were once rare in Japan, but now they're springing up nationwide. Finnish tradition with a Japanese twist!
  • Rules and Respect: Not every place allows löyly. Look for signs or ask the staff.


Whether it's the calming ritual of traditional Japanese saunas or the exhilarating thrills of Aufguss and l￶yly, the sauna experience offered in Japan is unparalleled. It's where traditional practices meet modern luxury and innovation, and a place worth relaxing in for a while.

Ready to take the plunge? The doors of Japanese saunas are wide open, inviting you to immerse yourself in a culture that warms the body and soul. Whether you are a sauna novice or a seasoned expert, the Japanese sauna world welcomes you.