It may not be the only reason, but part of the plan is that green tea and wagashi will help keep you safe during your stay.

When you check into a Japanese inn, there are two things you can pretty much always count on to be waiting for you in your room: green tea and wagashi, as traditional Japanese sweets are called. Given how much Japan values unobtrusive hospitality and tranquil relaxation, it’s no surprise that refreshments are provided, right?

However, it turns out that sometimes there’s another reason Japanese inns provide snacks and tea, and that’s as a safety precaution. And no, the hotel’s worry isn’t that extra-hungry guests will go into a rampage without a tribute offering of sweet bean cakes, but that it might be dangerous for you to go into the bath without first partaking of the tea and wagashi.

Many Japanese inns have onsen (hot spring) baths, and even those that don’t have a supply of naturally geothermally heated water frequently have spacious bathing facilities, often with outdoor sections, landscaped gardens, or panoramic views. A nice, long soak is often the highlight of a guest’s stay, but while a dip can have rejuvenating effects, the heat can take a toll on your body if you stay in too long.

Those risks increase if you’re partially dehydrated or your blood sugar level is dipping before you get in the bath, and can sometimes lead to collapsing or fainting. That, according to a hotel industry acquaintance of Japanese Twitter user @bu_budog, is why onsen inns have tea and sweets in your room when you check in, so that you’ll get an influx of fluids and sugar before you hop in the bath.

@bu_budog isn’t the only person to put forth this explanation, either. Public broadcaster NHK’s Chiko-chan ni Shikarareru variety program has also discussed the importance of pre-bath green tea and wagashi, as has hot spring travel portal Onsen Paradise Kagoshima.

▼ Though caffeine is a diuretic and in excess can contribute to dehydration, those effects don’t occur on a significant scale with a single cup of green tea, making it still a net-positive in terms of hydration.

Of course, this isn’t the only reason Japanese inns put out tea and sweets. They’ve become an expected part of the travel experience, so much so that some properties don’t even really think about their bath safety benefits, and often the wagashi that’s provided is a locally made specialty, which the inn also just so happens to sell souvenir boxes of so you can take some home to your friends if you enjoyed your free sample. Still, to some hoteliers those snacks aren’t just there to satisfy your taste buds but to protect you too, and if you’re looking for justification for eating your wagashi as soon as you get into the room, now you’ve got it.

Sources: Twitter/@bu_budog via Jin, Chiko-chan ni Shikarareru, Onsen Paradise Kagoshima, Healthline
Top image: Pakutaso

Insert images: Pakutaso, Wikipedia/FlickrLickr
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