One of my followers asked me if you can wear glasses in Onsen. Since I personally don’t wear glasses, I have never thought about this question before. So I checked several Japanese forums and asked my Japanese friends for advice and now I can give you a clear answer.
In general, it is allowed and you can wear glasses in onsens. However, when you enter the onsen your glasses will fog up immediately making it hard to see through. The onsen water could also damage and corrode your frame. So if you don’t have to use them you should better take them off.
When I read about wearing glasses in onsen I found that keeping them on and taking them off both have their pros and cons. So I want to tell you a few things you should keep in mind and some tips for each situation. And you might also be happy to hear that there is actually an awesome Japanese solution for this!
Manners For Wearing Glasses in Onsen
The Onsen etiquette is there for two reasons: safety and harmony. As long as it is safe and it doesn’t annoy other guests it is okay to do. If you wear glasses you won’t bother anyone, so you don’t have to worry about this.
However, when it comes to safety it is a bit more tricky. It might be safer for you to wear glasses, but if your glasses fall down and break, for example, the shattered glass shards could hurt other guests.
And actually wearing glasses could also be more dangerous for you.
Once you enter the bathing area of the hot spring your glasses will fog up and make it difficult to see through. Because of that you could easily trip and stumble or slip and hurt yourself.
So what is better? Wearing glasses in an onsen? Or taking them off before entering the bathing area of an onsen?
Well, safety is most important in my opinion. So if you have a lot of troubles seeing without glasses you should definitely wear them. If it is kinda hard or you feel lost not wearing them you might want to keep them on. But otherwise, I would recommend you to lock them away with your belongings before entering the bathing area.
From my personal onsen experience, I can tell you that Japanese usually take them off. I have never seen anyone wearing glasses in an onsen. But I have also never been to the men’s bathing area and when I did my research for this post, I read that it is not unusual to see men wearing glasses in an onsen or a sento.
No matter what please be aware of the slippery ground and watch your steps.
Things to Consider When Wearing Glasses
So you can wear glasses in an onsen. In fact, considering the reasons above, it might even be better for you to keep them on. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind and know before doing so.
Wearing Glasses in Onsen Can Damage The Frame And Lenses
This can especially happen when the glasses fall into the hot water but the steam isn’t good either.
When the lenses of your glasses heat up the different layers will expand at a different rate. A minor expansion could already deform and destroy your plastic lenses. But especially when your glasses cool down and the lenses shrink back to normal it often causes irreparable cracks in the coating.
Another problem is the corrosion of metal frames. We all know that water isn’t good for metal and can make it rust. So the more often and the longer you expose your glasses to the hot steam in the hot spring, the more likely they can start rusting.
Even if your frame is made of titanium, the steam could still corrode the screws, which are usually made out of another type of metal.
Your Glasses Will Be Fogged up All The Time
This seems to be one of the main reasons why people don’t like to wear glasses in a hot spring. Right after entering the bathing area, they are fogged up and they will stay like this until you leave.
So even though are wearing glasses, you won’t be able to see anything or a lot. And you will also not be able to enjoy the beautiful architecture of the onsen and the beautiful nature surrounding the onsen.
I’m so sorry since I don’t have glasses I probably can’t relate to this. But literally, everybody mentioned this in the forums. So I guess this is a pretty big pet peeve.
How to Enjoy Onsen When Wearing Glasses
- Try to keep your bathing time short so that your glasses won’t be exposed to the hot steam and heat for too long
- Keep the small towel dry and use it to protect your glasses from steam and water
- Don’t use the sauna, especially when you have a metal frame, because it can easily burn you
- Bring a pair of old glasses. Like this, you don’t have to worry about damaging your expensive or new ones
Things to Consider When Not Wearing Glasses
When you don’t wear glasses you are going to face a few other obstacles. Overall, I don’t think that they are going to be a big issue for you as long as you are aware of them. That’s also the reason why I made the recommendation to not wear glasses in an onsen, except for safety reasons. But again this is totally up to you. So here is what you might experience when you don’t wear glasses.
Can’t Read Explanations and Descriptions in the Onsen
You might not be able to tell apart the shampoo from the conditioner or the body soap, for example. Kanji can be difficult to read even if you can see them clearly. On my first trip to Japan, it actually happened quite a few times that I couldn’t tell which bottle is shampoo and which one is body soap. In an onsen that is even more difficult.
Reading the explanation and information about each onsen bath will also be more difficult. Most hot springs spas have a variety of bathtubs each with different healing effects and benefits and usually, there is a sign attached that explains everything. It is nice and useful, however, that won’t really matter if you can’t read Japanese.
Be Aware of The Uneven Ground And Watch Your Steps
There are a lot of onsens with a long history and they can have uneven floors or steps. Especially on my way to the outdoor bath, I have often encountered this. Sometimes there are also natural rocks in the hot spring bath, so just be extra careful and don’t hurt your toes.
The Japanese Solution: Onsen Glasses
Japanese love bathing and going to onsens and so they came up with special glasses that you can use in a hot spring or a public bathhouse. The name of those glasses is “Ofuro You Megane” aka onsen glasses or bathing glasses.
These glasses are made of plastic that can withstand the heat and won’t fog up in the onsen. Unfortunately, those onsen glasses or only sold on Amazon Japan. I found different models ranging from ¥2,000 – ¥4,000.
Since they are only available on Amazon Japan it will be hard or impossible for you to get them. But this might be an option for you if you are interested in this invention.
Aigan is a Japanese chain that has a highly-praised model called “For Yu“. Yu is the Japanese word for hot water, bathing, and hot spring. The lenses, frame, and even the screws are made of plastic. So the glasses can’t corrode. They use a special type of plastic that can not only withstand the heat of an onsen but also the heat of a sauna. So you could even wear them when going to the sauna.
The glasses are sold in their shops which can be found all over Japan. The price for one pair is about ¥3,240 and they are available from -3.0 to +2.5. I read a few reviews about them and people were really excited and enthusiastic about them. Apparently, they really don’t fog up at all in an onsen.
I don’t know if you can find glasses like this overseas, but if they aren’t available maybe they make for a nice souvenir? This is not your standard souvenir from Japan, I know. But what do you think about such a unique present?
Good idea (｡⌒◡⌒｡)?
Can you wear contact lenses in an onsen? If you wear contact lenses you won’t have problems with the steam. But apart from the problems that can happen in a normal spa or pool the minerals in the onsen can damage your contact lenses. If you don’t mind the other risks you could use 1-day contacts, but I personally don’t recommend it
What should you not do at a Japanese onsen? Regarding wearing glasses, the most important thing is to not run around. Also, don’t bring and wear swim goggles in the onsen and be careful that nothing accidentally drops into the hot spring water.
Do you wear yukata to onsen? Yukata are actually Japan’s traditional and original bathrobe. Many Japanese wear them in onsen ryokan and onsen towns. However, there are a few things you should be careful about.