It's an image I can't quite wrap my head around. But yep, I did it ;) Japan's famous for their Onsens - natural hot springs that exist due to the volcanic activity. The water's natural minerals are touted to have healing powers, healing all sorts of physical ailments. I was initially a bit iffy and not so keen about going to one - the thought of being totally naked in front of a bunch of people is just too exhibitionistic to me :P But Chris was very keen and convinced me to go on a trip out to an Onsen.
We picked the Yunosato onsen, located about 1.5 hours away by high-speed train. Getting there was an adventure in itself! It's very Japanese to buy a bento box filled with goodies, and bring it with you on the train to eat. After carefully selecting my bento box of choice (and other snacks), we settled into the comfy seats for our journey there.
Much like in China, it was fascinating to see all the buildings and cityscapes fade away quickly as we pulled out of the city and into the countryside. Lots of green, rolling hills, and snow-capped mountains. It was lovely to get out to the countryside...
The super-fast train, cryptically named "Romance Car"
Fabulous bento boxes. They are so fun to eat on the train!
Up in the mountains - chilly!
The Yunosato onsen is located at the foot of the Yusakayama mountain. It provides 5 sources of hot spring water for the onsen, at a rate of 400,000 litres per day! There's all manners of onsen etiquette, because the Japanese are so neat and clean. Let's just say NOTHING would get me near something similar in China ;) At the onsen, there's a spick-n-span bathroom, spacious and incredibly clean - not a hint of mould or dirt anywhere. You strip and pop all your clothes into your locker, and walk buck-naked into the shower area.
There, there's a little plastic chair for you to sit on (you don't shower standing up displaying your ladybits to the world, you see), and a shower head with bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Here, you scrub yourself clean. The Japanese women take a good 15 mins to scrub themselves from head to toe, so that they're totally clean.
Then, it's off to the indoor onsen. Indoors because the air inside is heated - you don't exactly want to step out into the snow outside naked! The onsen is H-O-T. But that's the point - you soak yourself in the natural spring water until you're all heated up... THEN you open the glass sliding doors and step outside.
A blast of icy air hits you immediately, but it's a welcome relief because the onsen was so hot. You make a mad dash into one of the outdoor onsens - ours had 5 (!!) to choose from. You lay back, relax, and basically bask yourself in the heat of the hot spring water... whilst admiring the mountains and snow around you. It's a mystical, magical experience because clouds of steam are rising from all the onsens, yet you see snow-capped mountains around you. Totally surreal - being naked, soaking in hot spring water, and outdoors in the -2 degree winter air.
And, boy, IS IT FUN!!!
A fabulous way to relax and unwind, the Japanese are onto something here.. hehe. It was fairly strange (and a bit comical) seeing all the women naked - I've never seen so many nude women in real life, ever! Well, never too late to try something new ;)
The path leading up to the Onsen
Pretty little Japanese garden
Inside the Onsen area... these are the Relaxation rooms
Our little welcome card/guide
Entering the changing rooms.. and the Onsen lies behind that
Bliss and relaxation
The outdoor onsens
A little hairtie - a souvenir I bought there