For some, one of the best parts about hiking, skiing or boarding in Japan, actually comes at the end of the day. A long soak in the hot spring is certainly one of Japan's most cherished rituals and with good reason. The effects of the waters are a relief to your body and your mind, and the concept of communal bathing, while strange to some of us from western countries, is actually a perfect place to talk over the days adventures.
Onsen, or hot springs, come in many varieties in Japan, each with a different characteristic amount of mineral content. The colorless and odorless waters of the Happo Onsen have an alkali content of 11.28, which help leave the skin feeling smooth and perhaps dropping years off your visible age. So much so in fact, that the appellation “Hot Spring of Beauty”, or “Bijin no yu” is given to the area's waters.
In our Haspa onsen, we take our waters directly from that very spring. Inside Haspa you'll find a large main bath, as well as a Jacuzzi bath to massage out some of the aches and pains of the day. Onsen waters are also purported to have healing effects on a whole range of ailments, from respiratory to circulation. In any sense, the onsen helps you forget about the day to day for at least thirty minutes or an hour, and that is always good for your health. A mist sauna completes the experience. We have nice large changing area and generous washing basins, as well as a plenitude of amenities, including refreshing lotions and sprays made directly from Kita-Alps water, to help you coming out looking as good as you feel.
Now it's time to relax!
Some guidelines to bathing Japanese Style.
1. Bathing suits are not appropriate or allowed in the hot spring. If you feel a bit shy (no reason to really!) it isn’t unusual to carry a small “modesty” towel as you’re walking around the change room. Be sure not to take the towel directly into the bath with you though!
2. When you first enter the onsen area, walk to the cleaning area full of mirrors and buckets. Wash your seat off and sit down. Then wash everything on your body, including your hair. Men usually take this opportunity to shave as well. Japanese shower, or dunk buckets of hot water on themselves, while sitting on low seats, and I have to say, it is the best way to take a shower. Then it’s time to enter the bath… slowly!
3. If you’re with a friend, certainly feel free to talk quietly. A typical onsen is a mixture of blissful silence punctuated with the occasional murmured conversation and perhaps a nod of greetings to other bathers. If you’re lucky, it will also be accompanied by the sun slowly setting over the mountains or the snow gently falling beyond the roofed portion of an outdoor bath. Actually, you don’t actually have to be that lucky… these kind of scenes are not that hard to find.
Bathing and onsens are one of the fundamental components of Japanese culture and I can say with firm belief that no one has properly experienced Japanese culture until they have experienced an onsen.