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Unwinding in Japan's geothermal wonderlands

Unwinding in Japan's geothermal wonderlands
By Seamus Kearney

<p>Mention the word onsen to people in Japan and their faces instantly light up; and it’s not surprising, as this is a word that symbolises something very special for the Japanese.</p> <p>An onsen is a traditional hot springs, a natural geothermal resource where people go to unwind from the stresses of daily life.</p> <p>Kagoshima, with its impressive volcanoes, is just one of the places where tourists can enjoy this unique experience.</p> <p><img src="http://www.euronews.com/media/download/articlepix/postcards3-blog-bb1-070316.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>There are many different kinds of onsens, from expensive luxurious ones to establishments that are more affordable for budget travellers.</p> <p>Japan has thousands of onsens, both indoor and outdoors, and in the old days these were actually public bathing places. </p> <p>Often they are in natural surroundings, to give visitors the feeling of having found a haven, an escape. </p> <p><img src="http://www.euronews.com/media/download/articlepix/postcards3-blog-bb1a-070316.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>The traditional one we visited is called <a href="http://www.gajoen.jp/en/">Gajoen</a>, a resort tucked in between trees and a lovely stream.</p> <p>There is a wonderful rustic feeling when you arrive, with the buildings really blending in to the green environment.</p> <p><img src="http://www.euronews.com/media/download/articlepix/postcards3-blog-bb2-070316.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>The resort is at the southernmost tip of Kyushu in a quiet hot springs town in Kagoshima prefecture.</p> <p>There are 10 guest rooms, some with their own private hot springs inside, and guests can use three main hot springs situated close to the stream.</p> <p>The Gajoen website says: “We will provide you with the perfect place to escape from the everyday and the ordinary, allowing you to relax both your mind and body. </p> <p>“We hope that after unwinding at our rustic estate, you will return home with memories of a pleasant stay with us.”</p> <p><img src="http://www.euronews.com/media/download/articlepix/postcards3-blog-bb2a-070316.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>And just one session in the hot springs – which is rich in numerous minerals including magnesium, calcium and iron – and you know you will leave feeling better.</p> <p>The owners here explain that as well as being good for relaxation, the onsen is an effective treatment for aches and pains and can help heal numerous health complaints. </p> <p>For foreign visitors to an onsen, there is also the chance to really get immersed in another world.</p> <p><img src="http://www.euronews.com/media/download/articlepix/postcards3-blog-bb4-070316.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>At the onsen we visited you are given a kimono and other traditional Japanese clothes to wear. Your normal, everyday clothes can be left in the cupboard until you check out.</p> <p>A visit to these popular centres is also a chance to eat well and try something different.</p> <p><img src="http://www.euronews.com/media/download/articlepix/postcards3-blog-bb5-070316.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>The food here is fresh and organic and can be delivered to your room. There is also a breakfast room and a cafe where you can also relax and meet others.</p> <p>What is impressive about the food is the variety of the produce and the different kinds of dishes, with traditional cuisine the focus. </p> <p>Some people come just for a night, others for a weekend. </p> <p>But there are those like me who would be quite happy to stay for a week or longer, to really make the most of that wonderful feeling of being pampered and doing something kind to your body.</p> <p><img src="http://www.euronews.com/media/download/articlepix/postcards3-blog-bb6-070316.jpg" alt="" /></p>