The Japanese Onsen, or Japanese hot spring, are a way of life in Japan. At the foothills of Mt. Kenashi lies the sleepy ski town of Nozawa Onsen. Home to just under 4000 people, its built on local farming and seasonal tourism.
That is because, until recently, very few homes in town had their own showers or baths. The local onsen was the daily bathing ritual – and for many villagers it still is.
Throughout the village there’s about thirty different types of hot springs and fourteen public baths.
Most are tucked away behind beautiful wooden doors hidden from the untrained tourist eye.
For my first onsen experience, I ventured into the traditionally-styled Furusato No Yu.
For my second Japanese onsen, I went into SPArena – a newly renovated Onsen which incorporates indoor/outdoor pools.
The big difference between SPArena and the other onsens around town is that you can wear your bathing suit and men/women/children can bath together.
There’s also a restaurant and massage room. It looks like a giant YMCA.
Throw your stuff in a locker, hit the showers and then take your pick on one of the oversized hot tubs!
And perhaps the greatest aspect of this experience, after a soothing soak is the relax room!
Thanks to an invitation by the great staff over at the Ryokan Sakaya hotel, I upgraded from the staff lodge and checked into the one of the most luxurious traditional Japanese hotels in town.
I’m escorted to my room by a lovely little woman who explains the layout and then prepares a welcoming green tea.
She then says that I needed to change into a more appropriate outfit for dinner, and proceeds to show me how.
Dressed to impress, I make my way downstairs to meet the director of the Nozawa Onsen Ski School and his family for dinner. And I had no idea what to expect…
What came next is me joyfully lost in sake-infused state of bold flavors and new discoveries.
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