A Letter from Japan/Sano Yujiro – Onsen, a Japanese national treasure


Editor’s Note: Sano Yujiro was recently an exchange student here, and vowed to write occasional letters from Japan upon his return. This is his second installment.

When Japanese go on a trip, in many cases, we often go to onsens, or natural spas. There are a lot of ways to enjoy natural spas in Japan. 

A lot of Americans enjoy bathing outside with their own bath tub though it is very different from Japanese ways of enjoying it.  In Japan, it is so rare to bath outside since most of Japanese have a bath tub inside of house. 

Japanese basically bath every day but not outside and that is probably the reason why Japanese love to go to natural spas which locate outside.  There are actually more reasons why natural spas are very popular in Japan.  For examples, some hospitals even use natural spas for medical care, and there is even the natural spa for animals which is like zoo, in Japan.  

First of all, there are often a lot of famous natural spas on the countryside, such as Nikko Onsen, Kawatani Onsen, and so on.  One reason that can be found easily is that a lot of Japanese have to work in big cities, like Tokyo because there are not many jobs on the countryside so that people are often stressed out with so many people.  When they can go somewhere on the long vacation, they tend to go to the countryside because there are not many people like in Tokyo. 

On the countryside, there are a lot of trees, some clean rivers, and all the things that are enough for us to imagine clean nature that makes us escape from all the busy days and take a rest, including natural spas. 

Natural spas also have some places where they can get sweet massage that takes off their stress from their dairy lives. 

There is a big difference between Japan and America about bathing.  When Japanese go to natural spas, they take off all the clothes they wear, so they are basically naked.  It is one of the most important parts of natural spas in Japan. 

Being naked means they are trying to be friendly so that everyone in the same spa is willing to talk to each other.  A lot of people drink Japanese Sake in spas too.  Since their bodies get higher temperature than usual in the hot water, alcohol gets around faster and it makes them relax so much. 

However, Americans dont take off their clothes in the spa and also dont usually take a bath with people who they are not familiar with.  They must have fun since they are all the friends though they cannot be as relaxed as Japanese can be because they have to be more relaxed to talk to others who they dont know. 

In some Japanese nature spas, there are mixed bathing, which means that boys can be right next to girls being naked.  How exciting is this! 

While the Japanese enjoy going to natural spas; there are more reasons to go there.

In some hospitals, the natural spas are very useful for medical care.  For example, at Shiohara Hospital, in Nikko, there is a lot of patience for skin diseases and cancers.  Shiohara Hospital has their natural spa which is from Nikko Onsen and some doctors found out that it includes alkalinity. 

Since the grade of alkalinity is very high here, it breaks the tissue on the patiences skin which includes their bad part of tissue.  Regarding cancer, many doctors are researching about the relationship between the natural spas and cancers and hopefully more patience get better and better.

Lastly, in a lot of natural spas, a lot of animals, mostly monkeys, are in natural spas with people.  Those spas are more popular in comparison with other ordinary ones.  It is very cute to be with relaxed monkeys in the same spa. 

Some monkeys act like humans, such as drinking Japanese sake.  It looks very Japanese.  There are not many foreigners in such spas since they are not really famous.  One of the reasons is that driving cars is the only way to get those kinds of spas. 

There are no trains and buses to get there.  However, recently, one train route was opened and it made everyone go there easier and faster.  A lot of natural spas are hoping that a lot of foreigners would come to see monkeys drinking sake.

Onsen has been the major business in Japan.  Onsen is certainly the best place to go because a lot of Japanese are often stressed out and Onsen makes them relaxed.