Public bathing

Five awesome hot springs in Taiwan (one of them has been on fire for 300 years!)

Japan is famous for being an onsen (hot spring) nation, so much so that a friend of mine preaches that “if you’ve never been to an onsen, then you’ve never been to Japan”. Quite the extremist, but you get the idea. Japanese hot springs come pretty close to “heaven on earth”.

But Japan’s neighboring country, Taiwan, also has some fabulous hot springs to boot! The fact that there are onsen-loving Japanese people who travel to Taiwan for a soak is sufficient to vouch for the quality of these bubbling hot baths. Here’s a list of five onsen hot spots you wouldn’t want to miss on your trip to Taiwan!

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Japanese bathhouses lose relevance in modern culture but gain popularity as a tourist attraction

It’s increasingly common knowledge that Japan has some unusual bathing habits, at least compared to those of the Western world. The bathtub in Japan is generally seen as a place to relax, warm up, or ease tired muscles, not as a place to get clean (that’s what the stool and the shower head beside it are for). One of the most novel ways to indulge in this steamy pastime is to attend a public bath house (sentou) and experience a bit of naked bonding time with friends, family, and whoever else happens to be present that day.

However, as most Japanese these days have bathtubs in their homes, the need to visit a dedicated bath house is greatly diminished. These aging facilities are losing business by the day, and many have been forced to close. Thankfully, there is one demographic that remains enthralled by the idea of experiencing public baths as a novelty. Travel agencies and bath houses together are reaching out to foreign tourists as an important source of business.

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