The onsen is a hot spring/bath in Japan.
Abigail did an extensive post on these baths last November, in SL Naturist as part of the ‘southern hemisphere’ tour, even though Japan’s in the northern hemisphere.
It’s hard to know how accurate a portrayal of onsen life SL’s version brings, or indeed how representative the imagery of onsen life as found on the internet is. My research suggests that the onsen are more likely to be gender segregated than involve mixed, nude bathing. However it seems that in the past mixed, nude bathing would have been a regular occurrence. Now, men appear to cover their genital area with a small towel used for washing. The towel isn’t supposed to be immersed in the water for hygiene purposes, which is why you can see photos of users, male or female, with a towel propped on their heads.
Women wearing towels in the onsen
Women with towels on their head
Anime of an onsen shows a mixture of towel-clad and naked users.
Japanese avatar Haruto doing the pre-onset washing and cleansing ritual
The time difference between the UK and Japan means I don’t have any Japanese SL friends (ditto Australian or New Zealand players), but I recently met Haruto, who gave me a tour of some of the onsen in Second Life. On our travels we met Yui, who also agreed to pose.
Above, Yui is at the Hikaru onsen. As you can see, it’s in a snowy location, and this, it seems, isn’t so far removed from some real life onsen located in the mountains, above the snow line.
The pictures from real life (above) show that the SL version does indeed replicate RL to some extent.
We then moved on to the Sabai onsen, and again you can see the builders have located this ‘somewhere in the snowy mountains’. There was also a lovely little Japanese styled garden in which to pose, as well as using the hot springs.
Haruto then went to the Ryuuou gay onsen for more poses.
Note that many of the onsen in SL offer free towels such as that worn by Haruto (above) and by Yui (below).
I’d recommend that you try an onsen if you haven’t done so before, if only for the fact that the scenery & geography of them is uniformly lovely.