Immersion in an Onsen

cyprus tub beckons
with a curled finger of steam
fragrance of forest

steam flowers in clouds
slipping into onsen depths
shiny skin puckers

Kim M. Russell, 2017


Morning at the Nozawa Onsen, Shinsui Province by Kasamatsu Shiro (1933) – image found on Pinterest

My response to Carpe Diem #1164 Onsen the hot springs of Japan

We are leaving the land of the Rising Sun and this final episode is about onsen: the hot springs of Japan.  Chèvrefeuille tells us that already in the seventeenth century, when Basho was writing, there were hot springs where Japanese people could find relaxation and peace of mind. Basho wrote several haiku about the hot springs, for example:

tonight my skin
will miss the hot spring
it seems colder

at Yamanaka
it’s not necessary to pluck chrysanthemums
hot spring fragrance

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Chèvrefeuille says that onsens are Japanese hot springs as well as bathing facilities and inns situated around them. As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsens scattered throughout its major islands. Onsens were traditionally used as public bathing places and are a central feature of Japanese tourism, typically found in the countryside, with a number of popular establishments in major cities. Japanese often talk of the virtues of ‘naked communion’ for breaking down barriers and getting to know people in the relaxed atmosphere of a ryokan with an attached onsen. 

The volcanic nature of Japan provides plenty of springs. When the onsen water contains distinctive minerals or chemicals, the onsen establishments typically display what type of water it is. Onsens are said to have various medical effects and Japanese people believe that a good soak in a proper onsen heals aches, pains and diseases.

8 thoughts on “Immersion in an Onsen

      1. We drove around in the country, down unpaved roads with the windows down today. We listened to birds and photographed them. No hot water baths but the air and freshly plowed fields were wonderful!

        Liked by 1 person

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