Where can I find a Japanese onsen towel?
September 14, 2016 1:26 PM   Subscribe

I can't figure out how to find a towel like I brought home from Japan. Can you help?

When I visited Japan fifteen years ago, I came home from an onsen with a little white towel that you could squeeze the water out of. I think I bought it for around a dollar with my admission to the onsen. Since then I've picked up a luxurious (in my odd mind) habit after a shower of drying my body first with a couple of squeezes of the onsen towel, and then if I feel like it, picking up my still-cozy-dry regular-western bath towel and drying myself thoroughly. Now my one onsen towel is wearing out, and I can't figure out from the internet how to buy a few of these. Sure, I'd be happy if someone wants to pick a few up for me while you're over there, but is there a word for these I can use to find one to buy online?
posted by spbmp to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure if this is exactly what you're looking for, but divers have been using artificial chamois for this for ages. There are a bunch of options out there.
posted by goggie at 1:31 PM on September 14, 2016

Well, they're not usually white, so I'm not sure if this is what you had in mind, but tenugui are a pretty common Japanese item. They're just a thin, woven, cotton towel, and usually sold as cheap and pretty souvenirs, but they're very versatile, and you can find them loads of places.
posted by Diagonalize at 1:34 PM on September 14, 2016

We have tons and tons and tons of them, but couldn't you just use a white hand towel or something?
posted by My Dad at 1:38 PM on September 14, 2016

If it's a thin cotton towel, maybe a small Turkish peshtemal will work?

(I don't think these are what you meant, right?)
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:52 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Microfiber hair towels are pretty close.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:40 PM on September 14, 2016

My Dad, a white hand towel doesn't have the nice capacity to hold a lot of water and then lose almost all of it by wringing out.

Johnny W, I've got a peshtemal, a gift from Turkey, but it also doesn't do the hold-and-release. (It's a little slick/smooth, not super absorbent, quite nice to lie on.)

but wait -- (I don't think these are what you meant, right?)
that's oddly close -- the qualiries they're talking about like absorbency and quickness to dry are in the right direction... and it's pretty funny that I missed "onsentowel.com"! If you click on "get one" it takes you to a form to put down your email to hear when theyre in production. ok, probably much fancier than what I'm looking for (and real-towel-sized, which is kind of silly :-) but certainly an interesting curiousity. And maybe we've just helped them drum up some business!

microfiber/chamois are ideas worth trying.

amazing that it seems so hard to actually find them!
posted by spbmp at 6:35 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Amazon Japan has plenty. They are wicked cheap so even with shipping it might not be too bad. Just search 温泉 タオル.
posted by Gotanda at 6:58 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I found some on Amazon that approximate Japanese onsen towels by using the term "salon towels". It looks like it's the right dimensions, too - rectangular, not too big.
posted by suedehead at 7:06 PM on September 14, 2016

They are called tenugui.
They are used not only in onsens, but basically everywhere that towels are used.
A quick search on ebay showed several at affordable prices.
posted by xmts at 8:43 PM on September 14, 2016

Onsen towels are not tenugui. Tenugui are a rectangle of cotton with an unfinished edge. Onsen towels are a thin towel with a short sparse pile.
posted by Sar at 3:37 AM on September 15, 2016

Thanks, Sar! I retract my previous suggestion. It's been a long time since I was at an onsen.
posted by Diagonalize at 8:14 AM on September 15, 2016

Learning to work with amazon.jp will be a bit of a project for me, but I think Gotanda's suggestion is the most direct match!
posted by spbmp at 12:19 PM on September 15, 2016

Good luck spbmp. MeMail me if you want some help or confirmation on how to proceed with Amazon JP.

And, go for the cheap ones. The plain old cheap thin cotton ones are the best. None of the more expensive plush ones. They dry right out after use so no moldiness.
posted by Gotanda at 6:42 AM on September 17, 2016

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