One of the most interesting and relaxing experiences I had in Japan was spent in Japanese baths and traditional Onsen (hot springs) and one regret was that I didn’t have enough time to visit some of which are apparently the best Onsen in Japan – which are just outside of Tokyo.
Baths and Onsen – while equally relaxing and refreshing to me are slightly different. A true Onsen would include an actually volcanic hot spring or at the very least, water emanating from a nearby hot spring. Baths are generally just a place to bathe. Either way, I’ve never come out of a place feeling so clean and reinvigorated. One of the places I was staying at in Tokyo had a very nice bath with the standard hot tub experience and honestly…the real reason I skipped out on a night at Roppongi was that this hotel bath closed at 10pm and I had been looking forward to a soak all day.
After I descended Mt. Fuji after a good ass-kicking I immediately sought out the best Onsen within a reasonable distance from the train station. I indicated to the information office that I wasn’t concerned regarding price – just aesthetics and atmosphere leaning more to a view of Fuji and a traditional outdoor spring. I was introduced to this place which apparently had a great view of Fuji but it required an out of the way bus ride. Unfortunately the view wasn’t that great as it was obscured by a 6 foot fence but the environment was fantastic and I credit this bath with preventing my body from ceasing to function in any practical sense. Technically, I suppose it wasn’t a real Onsen either – given the lack of a volcanic spring…but it sure felt like one.
Gonna miss those and the Russian equivalent banya sauna experience with birch branch thrashing and cold-water jumping just doesn’t seem nearly as relaxing for some reason.