Japanese onsen - the ultimate in relaxation

Japanese onsen - the ultimate in relaxation
By Marta Brambilla  & Judith Prescott

Okuhida is famous for its hot springs, and especially its rotemburo (outdoor baths) with stunning views of the surrounding Northern Japan Alps. Five onsen towns have developed along Okuhida's valleys, each with its own unique character and hot spring water, as they are fed from different water sources.

Onsen are fundamental part of Japanese culture and it's in places like this where Japanese people love to go to leave behind the hectic pace of city life and enjoy the ultimate in relaxation.

The idea of wellbeing in Japan is totally different from the Western concept. In Japanese spas, clients are not expected to follow diets or detox treatments. In fact, food is actually a large part of the experience. They eat three proper meals  - breakfast, lunch and dinner - and also drink beer and sake. The water of the onsen is very hot - between 37 and 40 degrees.

Yoko Nojiri is the landlady at the Hotakaso Hotel's resort. She explains the attraction of these hot spring baths: “What is really enjoyable is the morning bathe, relaxing in the onsen in the early hours of the day when the air is fresh, and you can gaze at the Japanese Alps - it's an amazing experience.”

But it's not just beneficial for the mind, for years Japanese scientists have been documenting the positive impact onsen can have on human health.

Some studies have shown that hot spring water, depending on its mineral composition, can help people recover from certain surgeries and control a number of conditions, including rheumatism, neuralgia, hypertension and skin diseases.

Yoko Nojiri says people in Japan love to go in the onsen at all times of the day, even after dinner to relax before sleeping.

And believes they are ideal places to reconnect with oneself and nature.