The onsen trip: as beloved a relationship milestone as Christmas Eve and Valentine’s Day, but how long do you have to date before you bathe together?

Pretty much everyone in Japan loves hot springs, and hot springs can be found pretty much everywhere in Japan. So if you’re in a romantic relationship here, sooner or later you and your partner will probably be heading out to an onsen (as hot springs are called in Japanese) together.

But the question then becomes whether you’ll be in the onsen together. While the vast majority of hot spring bathing facilities in Japan are gender-segregated, a few still have konyoku baths, where men and women soak together. Konyoku hot springs are mainly found in especially remote rural areas, but what just about every moderate-sized or larger hot spring in Japan has are kashikiri baths, which you rent out for an additional fee for just you and your companion’s private use.

To be clear, kashikiri baths aren’t love hotel rooms, and doing the deed while in the water is a strictly prohibited faux pas. But even if your hands and hips aren’t supposed to be busy, your eyes most likely will be, since in Japan you go into the hot spring naked. Even if you’ve been on a few dates, sharing a cozy-dimension tub for 30 minutes with no clothes on is its own unique sort of intimacy, so at what point in the relationship is it acceptable to say “Hey, let’s hop in the hot spring together?”

To find out, Japanese travel provider Air Trip conducted a survey, gathering responses from 710 men and 401 women and finding a pretty big gap between the sexes. Among men, the most common response, from 25.5 percent of male participants, was “Taking a hot spring bath together is OK even before we’re in an exclusive relationship.” On the other hand, women were far less likely to give the green light to a konyoku or kashikiri onsen dip before being in a committed relationship, with just 6.5 percent saying they were OK with such a bathing arrangement.

Women’s number-one response, at 33.7 percent, was “after we’ve been in a relationship for over half a year,” which was also the number-two response for men (22 percent). Meanwhile, women’s number-two response came from the chaste 13.5 percent who feel “we have to be married, how long our relationship has been doesn’t matter,” which was also men’s number-three response (13.8 percent).

The complete responses were:
● OK even before we’re in a relationship
Men: 25.5 percent
Women: 6.5 percent
● Less than one month into the relationship
Men: 8.7 percent
Women: 8.5 percent
● 1-2 months into the relationship
Men: 5.6 percent
Women: 8.5 percent
● 2-3 months into the relationship
Men: 7.7 percent
Women: 8.2 percent
● 3-4 months into the relationship
Men: 10.4 percent
Women: 9.7 percent

● 4-5 months into the relationship
Men: 1.3 percent
Women: 2.5 percent
● 5-6 months into the relationship
Men: 3 percent
Women: 2.2 percent
● More than 6 months into the relationship
Men: 22 percent
Women: 33.7 percent
● Doesn’t matter how long we’ve been dating. We have to be married
Men: 13.8 percent
Women: 13.5 percent
● Other
Men: 2 percent
Women: 6.7 percent

It’s worth pointing out that while the most common bathing-together answer from women was “after we’ve been dating for six months,” that doesn’t mean that Japanese women are averse to a day at the onsen with a guy they’ve been with for less than half a year. When asked when it’s appropriate to go to a hot spring together and use separate baths, 17 percent said that they were fine doing so before establishing an exclusive relationship, with 41.4 percent open to an onsen date at the three-month mark and the majority, 56.4 percent, at four months.

Source: Newscast
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where his favorite onsen date remains the one where the clock in the kashirkiri bath broke and he got to stay in for an extra 15 minutes for free.

[ Read in Japanese ]