Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hot Mud in a Spring (Nabeyama Hot Spring 鍋山湯)

Many years ago, my wife, a friend, and I were chatting with a Japanese man we had met in a hot spring in Yufuin, Kyushu, and he explained that his hobby was traveling around Japan by motorcycle to hot springs. We listened to his tales of unusual springs and impulsively decided to follow him on a thirty-minute drive and a ten-minute walk to Nabeyama Hot Spring, 鍋山湯, one which sounded sounded so great that we had no choice but to visit. Located in a remote mountain of Beppu, Nabeyama Hot Spring has an panaramic view of Beppu City, the ocean, and surrounding woods. The unpaved road was so bumpy that I worried about the suspension of our car, but since I am addicted to hot springs, I would not stop. From the parking area, we walked up a hill. I enjoyed the fresh air and sound of hawks and crows. No one else was in the baths when we arrived. Two depressions lined with rocks were filled with clear water pouring out of a bubbling hole meters away.  
The Lower Baths
This water mixed with cold spring water to fill the baths. We embraced the natural atmosphere, as the hot water relaxed our bodies. Two men later appeared from a small trail that led through thick vegetation to our bathing area. They carried eggs which they put into the boiling water and shared with us. That day had become a penultimate hot spring experience.

If you go to Nabeyama Hot Spring (鍋山湯), bring eggs to boil where hot water bubbles out of a small hole above the clear-water baths. The minerals add a special flavor to the eggs. Beppu City has developed a food culture based on steaming food with hot springs.

Many years after my first visit, I moved to Oita and went to that spring again. This time, as I was walking to the hot spring, I saw someone in another bath about fifty meters away from the two I had enjoyed earlier. Afterwards, I walked over and to investigate and discovered that this one had a layer of dense mud in the bottom.  The water was turbid grey. The hot thick mud felt refreshing when spread on the body.   Mud facial treatments at beauty salons are expensive, but I was getting a natural one for free! There are no buildings in the area at all, so there are no entrance fees. You must remember to bring your own towel.
 Clean, Hot, and Muddy Fun in the Mountains of Beppu
The isolation is wonderful. It would be a great place to camp with friends. Unfortunately, in 2010, a young woman, who was enjoying the same peace and serenity that I had enjoyed, was brutally murdered in that location. The police apparently found and caught the murderer approximately one year later. Although, Japan is definitely the safest country that I have ever visited, there are still a small number of sick individuals, so I do not recommend traveling to remote areas alone. If I travel to an isolated hot spring in the mountains, I like to bring my dogs.

Here is a link to a short Yahoo video that shows this fantastic natural Japanese onsen.

The Sight of This Bather Led to My Discovery of the Mud Bath