- A Princess Cruises ship allows patrons to enjoy the Japanese ritual of bathing in an onsen, which is a hot spring-heated natural body of water.
- It’s custom to get naked while in an onsen, which are gender-segregated.
- To help non-Asian patrons on the cruise feel comfortable with bathing nude around strangers, ship attendant Hiroki Matsuo uses his psychology degree and training to ease folks into the new idea – and ultimately reap the benefits.
When Princess Cruises introduced the Diamond Princess, its only ship to exclusively sail around Asia, the designers included something that would appeal to its clientele: a Japanese hot spring, or onsen. Guests can take to the baths for a communal rite that’s popular in Japan, as well as Korea and Taiwan.
And the Princess Cruises’ onsen doesn’t miss out on one classic part of the hot spring experience: bathing in the nude around a bunch of strangers (of your own gender).
Communal hot springs are commonplace in much of East Asia, where most of the Diamond Princess’ guests are from.
But many of its Westerner guests aren’t familiar with the experience. And they’re often a bit freaked out by the idea of getting naked in public and jumping in a hot bath with a bunch of other naked strangers.
The Telegraph wrote earlier this month about 26-year old Hiroki Matsuo, an attendant on the Diamond Princess whose job responsibilities include making the ship’s non-Asian guests feel comfortable with the idea of bathing naked.
“Even though the indoor baths are segregated into men and women’s, foreigners are usually anxious when they learn that nudity is compulsory,” Matsuo, who has a degree in psychology from the University of Arkansas, told The Telegraph.
To ease them into it, he gives the guests a small towel to cover themselves with until they’re in the water. He also suggests patrons go earlier in the day, as it’s common in Japan to bathe after dinner or before bed.
- Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
There are a few different ways to enjoy the onsen experience. One common method is switching from the hottest waters to the coldest. It’s important to sit and relax rather than swim around. And you should never wring out your towel in the bath.
Routinely dipping into hot or cold water is becoming popular in certain circles. Life coach Tony Robbins said the final step of his morning routine is a five-minute stay in a super-hot sauna followed by a jump in a cold pool. As Business Insider’s Rich Feloni reported, the cold plunge is refreshing, and can kickstart your adrenaline and endorphins.
There’s some scientific evidence backing up the health benefits of a hot spring visit. One British study found that an hour in a hot bath can “boost metabolic health and cause an anti-inflammatory response similar to exercise,” as Business Insider previously reported.
Matsuo has seen the de-stressing effects himself. “It’s not a therapy, a surgery or a treatment, but it still causes some kind of physical and mental change,” Matsuo said.
“Afterwards, many tell me they feel like a new person,” he added. “I’ve seen some go into the baths looking grumpy and come out smiling. And, surprisingly, a lot of people make friends when they’re naked in the baths!”
Read the entire article on The Telegraph here.