Fact of the week: Onsen Towns in Japan
Credit to Research Team: Haziq
Prefecture: Kagoshima, Hokkaido, Ehime
Hello everyone for this week’s FTW I will be writing about onsen towns. So, first things first what is an onsen town?
Basically, an onsen town is a hot spring town. Onsen towns like those found at Ibusuki Onsen in Kagoshima, Noboribetsu Onsen in Hokkaido and Dogo Onsen in Ehime are just some to name a few. Japan is home to hundreds of onsens, you don’t have to travel to an onsen town like the ones mentioned previously there are always onsens to be found in, you just need to where to find it. However as for today I will be covering 3 most popular onsen towns, looking at the brief history of each onsen as well as the uniqueness of each one.
First up on the list is Ibusuki Onsen,
located at Kagoshima found in the southern main island of Kyushu. Ibusuki has many resorts that uses naturally heated sand for their baths. However, the most famous bathing location in Ibusuki is the Saraku Sand Bath Hall, as it has one of the best views overlooking Kagoshima bay and Mount Kaimondake in the background. Customers are provided yukatas to wear before getting buried by staff members after which they will cover the entire body except the head. It is recommended to stay normally around 10 – 20 minutes as the baths have many benefits reliving problems such as neuralgia, rheumatism, asthma, gastrointestinal and other benefits for women. After the sand bath you can wash off at the normal hot spring bath which are available as well. It is a recommended visit during your next trip to Japan as it is one of the more unique baths in all of Japan, using sand instead of hot water.
The next onsen town that we would be
looking at is located at the northern most island of Japan, Hokkaido. Here we can find the most famous onsen town, Noboribetsu, this is because the town’s hot spring water comes down from the nearby volcano, Jiogokudani or more famously known as Hell Valley. The reason Jiogokudani is known as Hell Valley is because of the constant steam that is erupting up from under the ground due to the volcanic activity which can make it seem that you are actually in hell. Jiogokudani produces 9 different types of spring water that flows through the Noboribetsu town, this can make it smell like the town smells of rotten eggs due to the high sulphur content in the air which will be immediately noticeable upon arrival. Furthermore, the different minerals found in the hot spring provides benefits that are able to rejuvenate the body and mind, it is believed to be able to cure diseases and injuries.
The last onsen on our list is Dogo Onsen
located in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture. Built in 1894, Dogo onsen consist of three levels and two wings one of which used to house the Imperial Family as guest within the east wing whenever they visied, however none of the Imperial Family members has ever returned to the onsen
and the last Imperial Family member to
visit was during 1950. The east wing which was previously closed to the public is now open, however you’re not allowed to bathe there as it mainly opened as a museum. The reason as to why the building has 2 different coloured roof titles is because of several renovations that the onsen underwent, you can see where the newer parts of the onsen is through the different coloured tiles gradually changing colour. Dogo Onsen’s architecture was said to have inspired Miyazaki’s anime film, Spirited Away, as he loved the design of it he wanted to include in the film as way to show love for the design of it. Although most onsens in Japan do not allow people with tattoos inside, Dogo Onsen is an exception to that as the onsesn is tattoo friendly. The surrounding cafes and restaurants boasts and amazing view of the onsen if you are ever hungry, furthermore you can wear the onsen yukata around Dogo Onsen to while you do your shopping and dining.