Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Secret Private Hot Spring

A hot spring fanatic brought me to his secret "private" hot spring. He and his friend had dug out a bath at the base of a cliff close to where he had discovered a small waterfall of hot sulfurous water in a national park in Northern Japan. He made me promise not to disclose the location and not to write his name. So for this post, I will call him Ultimate Onsen Addict (UOA-san). The bath is just for his pleasure and the enjoyment of his close friends. Another reason to keep it secret is that changing the landscape of a national park is probably illegal.
Private Mountain Onsen
UOA-san and I had met in a hot spring. After discussing our fanatical love for soaking in natural springs, he took me into his confidence and promised to show me his onsen. He brought me to a remote hiking trail that led through woods to high mountain peaks. The cascading swishes and splashes of numerous small waterfalls and a steeply descending river were the only sounds we heard besides the call of a circling hawk. The trail of slippery, loose, wet gravel curved around the edge of a precipitous cliff. At one point he stopped, he looked around to make sure that no one else was watching, and he moved a large rock sideways. Under the rock, was a concealed metal chain that he had previously bolted into firm rock. We used the chain to safely scramble down the almost-ninety-degree drop towards the river. On the way down, I spotted the small rock-edged bath between the river and the cliff. Then, he pointed out a small waterfall of hot water. 
Under the Hot Spring Waterfall, or Utaseyu (打たせ湯)

A friend of UOA-san had discovered the waterfall while hiking eleven years ago, and he realized that he could comfortably sit under the spray and receive a hot water massage. He showed the hot spring waterfall to UOA-san, and they later decided to dig out a bath. Eventually, they created three small different baths. They spend hours adjusting the baths, enjoying the serenity of bathing, and contemplating nature next to a river in the rugged Japanese mountains.
Wild Mountain Private Bath
Due to  heavy rains and rock slides during heavy typhoons, they have had to rebuild the baths several times. They clandestinely carry pipes, small shovels, and other tools up the mountain. Creating their secret bathing spot is a labor of love. UOA-san lives about an hour drive away from where he leaves his car before ascending the mountain trail to his private spring. He visits a couple of times a week. I realized that I had finally met a man who is even more of a hot spring addict than I am. It seems the Japanese do take their hot baths more seriously than anyone else on our planet.