Monday, August 6, 2012

Remembering Winter Hot Springs

Now that the sultry Japanese summer is baking Japan, not many people want to submerge themselves in a hot spring, but I still love the feeling. Hot baths clear the clammy sweat from my skin pores, and a cold shower afterward wakens my body from the humidity-induced slumber that the sweltering Japanese afternoons induce. Don't forget that numerous hot springs have a cold water bath, and alternating between the hot and cold waters stimulates the heart and cools the mind, or at least that is what happens to me.

Maybe you are not as crazy about hot baths in summer as I am. To cool you down, here's a peek at some cool hot springs that are magnificent in winter.

Heat Up, Rub Your Body With Snow, Repeat = 幸せ (Happiness)

The spring above, located in Niseko, Hokkaido, was surrounded by banks of snow over four meters high. You could stand on the wooden rim of the bath and make snow angels in the snow with your back and arms. Then jump back into the heat - hot fun in minus zero temperatures.

Watch Skiers from Hokkaido's Yukichichibu Hot Spring

A friend of mine who lives in Hokkaido recommended this wonderful hot spring hotel after I told him that I wanted to find a reasonably-priced hotel with natural hot springs near ski resorts.

Kokuminshuku Yukichichibu is the name of this minshuku (民宿). Minshukus are Japanese hotels which tend to be cheaper and less formal than ryokan (旅館)、traditional Japanese hotels. Bathers can watch skiers in the day and relish the starry skies at night.

Private Hotel Balcony Hot Spring
If you have the yen for it, staying in a hotel room that comes with a private hot spring is a luxury that is worth the yen you'll spend. We splurged one weekend in Yuzawa、Niigata, and had no regrets. A bath immediately after checking in, one before dinner, another just before bed, of course, one after awakening, and a bath before checking out fulfilled the needs of this hot spring addict. The photograph shows the bath before we turned on the hot water. While soaking in the evening, a small bottle of  local sake (地酒)waited patiently in the snow for us. Yuzawa is one of my favorite places in Japan. Even the train station is unique. It is, probably, the only train station in Japan with a hot spring in which sake has been added to the water.

The View from our Private Hotel Balcony Hot Spring