Japanese onsen are traditional public or private bathing facilities and inns constructed around naturally-occurring geothermal hot springs. A byproduct of Japan’s proximity to the famously volcanic Ring of Fire, these geothermal hot springs are a very popular aspect of domestic tourism in Japan and come in many different shapes and sizes.
While some onsen are located in major urban centers, they tend to be located in extra-urban settings, in a similar manner to a Russian dacha. They are generally viewed as a way to relax and unwind in contrast to a busy urban lifestyle and are often incorporated into honeymoons, company gatherings, and family vacations. There is a well-known phrase in Japanese, ??????or hadaka no tsukiai, which translates to “naked communication.” An onset hot spring is often used as a way to break down social barriers and encourage informal communication styles that may catalyze positive developments in relationships between friends, co-workers, lovers, and family members. There’s just something about being surrounded by artificial waterfalls and immersed in hot mineral water that seems to put a unique perspective on life!
Onsen usually operate year-round, and winter bathing is a very popular method of enjoyment, as is the case worldwide. The materials which the baths are made of very widely, and include marble, granite, tile, acrylic, stainless steel, and Japanese cypress. Depending on the mineral concentration of the water at a particular onset they may be touted as positively affecting certain types of muscle aches, skinned ailments, or digestive conditions, and are often recommended by doctors as way to relieve stress both internally and psychologically. Some notable examples of mineral concentrations that are found at onsets include sulphur, sodium chloride, hydrogen carbonate, and iron.
A popular way to unwind, and good for your health. Can’t beat that! The onsen is a very traditional part of life in Japan, and one of the best and most immersive (no pun intended) ways to appreciate the beauty of the country.
BIO: Soleil is a former chef, with an encyclopedia of recipes floating around in her head. Nowadays, she applies her culinary expertise to the wonderful world of fancy picnic baskets at Picnic World.
Photo Credits Spa interior mizoguchi.coji via Compfight cc Onsen sakamencho via Compfight cc