The thirteen bathhouses in Nozawa Onsen have been maintained as community properties jointly owned by the villagers and protected by an organization called Yu-Nakama, meaning friends of the hot springs, since the Edo Period. These bathhouses use 100% natural hot-spring water, which is not recycled. Properly maintained and always clean, the bathhouses are open to the public and can be enjoyed by short-term visitors as well as the villagers who use them every day. There are thirteen “gumi” (neighbourhoods) in Nozawa Onsen organized around each hot spring and the neighbourhood residents clean and maintain their hot spring.
If you are new to the onsen experience, take the time to watch the video below. Local villager Luke will give you a better understanding of the etiquette and process of taking an onsen.
Of course, Onsen is not just used for bathing; the Ogama cooking onsen is used by the villagers to cook local mountain vegetables and the famous Nozawana.