Sunday, July 20, 2014

Four of Japan's Premeir Muddy Hot Springs

"You got mud on yo' face" You big disgrace" are two lines from a famous song by the band known as Queen. They got it wrong. There ain't nothin disgraceful bout mud on yo' face: if the mud is some of that good ole clean mud from a natural Japanese hot spring.
Muddy and Healthy
Such springs not only contain mineral elements that are reputed to be good for health but also elements that are said to beautify your skin. Why spend a ton of money at a fancy spa to have someone wrap a facial pack on you, when you can do it yourself, save money, and be surrounded by nature or an authentic Japanese onsen? Just a tiny minority of Japanese hot springs are muddy. To get hot and dirty with the mud, you have to seek out the earthy springs. Read below for a few recommendations.
The muddy hot spring in the photo directly above is Nabeyama Hot Spring ( 鍋山湯), which is in the remote hills of Beppu, Japan. A short hike will be the appetizer before the main dish, a long soak in rock-edged baths in which you can enjoy communing with nature for free. After soaking in the mud, you can clean up in a nearby natural spring of transparent hot mineral water. Be prepared, you might to share the mud with a member of the opposite gender.
Happy Muddy Face
Hoyoland (保養ランド) is the name of a famous mud bath in Beppu, Oita, that draws visitors from around the world. If you are a nut about hot springs, add this onsen to your muddy bucket list. Admission is 1,100 yen for adults, and accommodation is also available. But a day trip is sufficient since the building is rundown and Beppu has a wide choice of hotels, inns, and guesthouses. At Hoyoland, males and females have their own indoor baths, but part of the outdoor bath is shared. Everyone is told to cover their private regions with the traditional tiny onsen towel, but with the towels being so skimpy, very shy individuals may decide not to go outside. If so, though, they will miss views of Beppu's green or golden grassy hills.
Deep in the mountains of Yamagata Prefecture is a unique Japanese inn named Okuyama Ryokan (奥山旅館). Okuyama Ryokan is just one of a few buildings in a village that is perched like a nest in the mountainous interior of Japan that most foreigners miss. This inn has several indoor and outdoor baths with all the mud you desire. Some people like to leave their hand prints on the walls or wooden posts. Getting into the baths is like soaking in any other spring. But if you scrape your hands along the bottoms, you can get a nice handful of squishy mud for smoothing over your body or creating prehistoric-looking art.

Across Japan, in Kumamoto Prefecture on the island of Kyushu is another wonderful bathing facility called Suzume-no-yu. All sorts of baths, clear and muddy, indoor and outdoor, same sex and separated, are available. This was my first exposure to both mud baths and mixed-sex bathing. I was surprised to share baths with a wide range of young and old people who were all barely covered with towels. A few older ladies were not very particular whether their breasts were exposed or not. The environment and the atmosphere was as relaxed as the mud-and-heat-soaked bodies. Alas, this was years before I started blogging, and I lack photographs to show you.You just have to go there yourself.