Monday, May 19, 2014

Artistic Onsen with Carbonated Water

Why name a hot spring building that was designed with sculptures and sections of charred lumber after a popular summer drink? The word lemonade is reportedly the source of the name for Ramune or Lamune Onsen (ラムネ温泉). Various springs in and around the remote town of Nagayu Onsen, Oita Prefecture, discharge naturally carbonated water that bubbles like a fizzy lemon drink. The artistic surroundings, the greenery, the bath design, and the unique water quality create an incomparable Japanese onsen experience.
Only Elite Dogs Are Allowed
Bring along your lover, special friend, or family members and rent one of the family rooms, or kazokuburo (家族風呂)for an intimate experience. Inside ours was a changing area and windows with a garden view. Two baths are available. The circular one is filled with constantly flowing carbonated water. It is not as hot as the rectangular bath, whose water comes from a different source.
Carbonation seems to disappear at very high temperatures. Slowly alternating between the two baths and a cold shower for an hour revitalized our bodies and mental outlook. When my wife and I bathed at Ramune, tiny bubbles briefly clung to our bodies before rising to the surface and popping. My friend, who often visits there, told me that the intensity of the carbonation varies from day to day. Natural hot springs are not constant and predictable. This is one reason why visits to the same hot springs on different days may offer unlike experiences.
A door to a private room at Ramune Onsen
The cost of renting a room for your exclusive use is 2,000 yen for an hour. Lamune Onsen also has large baths which are shared, but they are separated by gender. Afterwards, you can stroll around the building, which also has an art gallery on the premises, or walk outside and watch ducks in the nearby river. The air in the sleepy hot spring village is clean and fresh, just like the water, and there are many fresh water springs from which you can bottle water for free.  Several high quality Japanese ryokan with traditional architecture are available if you want to spend the night. There are plenty of hot springs to choose from. One of the most unusual ones is a free bath that is in the middle of a river and visible from many directions. The name is Ganiyu (ガニ湯).
Sign at the Entrance

The inside of the hot spring often has art displayed on the walls. A variety of local souvenirs are for sale, too. Souvenirs include t-shirts, bottles of local water, and Japanese sweets. There are also pamphlets about local happenings in Kyushu. Although, Nagayu is located far from the nearest big city, Oita, visiting is worth the effort. Click for the Lamune Onsen homepage, which is, unfortunately, only in Japanese.