Thursday, December 25, 2014

Bathing in Tea: One of Japan's Most Soothing Hot Springs

Why not combine two healthy, revitalizing, and soothing activities: consuming tea and bathing? The Warakuen Hotel in Ureshino, Japan, has green tea hot springs. A really tearrific experience!
Every day kilograms of green tea from the nearby fields are placed in large stone tea pots through which naturally hot mineral water passes. The hot water flows with the essence of tea into the baths made of artfully arranged stones in a Japanese style garden. The water is smooth. Tea bags are also placed near the bath. Soak them in the water and then rub them across your skin. Your skin will thank you. After bathing, you will smell of fresh green tea.
Ureshino is a small town in Saga Prefecture that is known throughout Kyushu for the quality of its tea, which is grown in mostly small family plots. The town is small enough to explore in a couple of days. While there, walk through tea fields, hike in the nearby mountains, eat meals prepared with tea and other local ingredients, shop for Saga prefecture's pottery, which is acclaimed across Japan, and bathe in the fantastic baths at Warakuen and various free foot baths waiting for you all over town.
Ureshino is a place that brings foreigners into contact with a more relaxed and healthier side of Japan than visitors encounter along the tourist routes in Tokyo and Kyoto. The people of Ureshino are extraordinarily, and rightfully so, proud of the quality of their thermal waters, forest-scented air, and green tea, whether it is in an artfully crafted cup, a luxurious bath, or growing in a pastoral field.
Approximately fifteen years ago, I first visited Ureshino and bathed in several different hot springs scattered throughout the small town. The green tea bath was so memorable that when I decided to start writing travel and culture articles for international magazines, I realized that it would make a great story. As a result, I visited again (it was a fantastic trip) and wrote two related articles for One article is about a master potter who uses green tea to paint pottery. Another is about experiencing the beauty, including the tea bath, of Ureshino. The latter was recently published in a printed magazine. If you like tea, take a sip of