Thursday, January 01, 2009

11/5/08: Onsen Hot Springs


I've mentioned onsen hot springs several times in the past. It is rather unusual concept in the US, and it goes beyond the idea of "public bath."

(For obvious reasons, I do not have photographs for this entry...)

Japan is an island nation with considerable volcanic activities. Although this creates some major isues (volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.), the Japanese can take consolation in enjoying natural hot springs as a byproduct of these dangerous heat-induced activities.

As the soil composition varies based on location and depth, the mineral composition of the onsen varies.

Onsen facilities have multiple areas. The first is the locker room, where in addition to changing, you can also groom yourself. Once in the onsen area, the first place where you would need to go is the washing area. As bath is communal, it is important that each bather go to the washing area and thoroughly wash their bodies.

Once cleansed, bathers are ready to enjoy the amenities, which may include bath with different mineral compositions, area with jacuzzi-like jet stream, soft bubbles, steam room, spa, cold bath, and if lucky, outdoor "rotenburo." Again, it is important to note that after going into the steam room or spa, one need to shower off sweat before re-entering communal bath.

On 11/4/08, I stayed at Hotel Grantia in Akita City. One night stay included single room, set dinner, breakfast buffet, and unlimited access to the hot springs for a very reasonable price of $70. Here is the Japanese site.

In this particular onsen, the color is rust due to the composition of sodium (natrium). The bath temperature is 92.5F with Ph level of +7.5. These properties are said to be ideal to treat fatigue, muscle ache, joint ache, and indigestion, among others. Naturally, I spent considerable time in the evening and following morning relaxing!

Here is the floor plan. Scrolling over dotted areas will open the photographs.

The following night, my stay at Také No Tsuyu allowed me to visit Yupoka Onsen on the adjoining property. As you may recall, construction of Yupoka resulted in a certain accident. Nevertheless, Aisawa-san was more than happy to take me there in the evening of the 5th and morning of the 6th. The entry fee was about $4.00 per visit, and in the morning, I ordered "breakfast set" ($9.50) which also included buffet-style Japanese traditional breakfast.

Unlike the onsen at Grantia hotel, the water was clear. Although I was given about one hour on my each visit, the time seemed to fly very quickly. Perhaps my best memory was sitting in the outside "rotenburo" during the evening, with a lone pine tree and being bathed by a moonbeam from a full moon. Only thing lacking was a bottle of Hakuro Suishu...

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