No, that’s not a screenshot from a Ghibli Film, it’s real life!
Who says sumo wrestlers can’t be sexy? (Slightly NSFW, but nothing more than you’d see during a typical sumo match.)
There aren’t a lot of cushy jobs in the anime industry. Aside from the pressure of having to please fickle fans and meet strict deadlines, most animators in Japan earn a pitiful salary.
Still, almost all anime professionals are also fans, and at the end of the day, being able to contribute to the art form that they love must be worth something. Plus, the employees of one particular anime studio get to enjoy the ultimate after-work perk: a dip in the hot spring that was found in their office building!
Two of the best ways to experience the pleasures of rural Japan are a long hike and a leisurely dip in a hot spring, or onsen, as they’re called in Japanese. With the country’s chains of volcanic mountains, there are plenty of spots where you where you can do both in the same day, with onsen resorts often not too far from where mountain trails start or end.
But instead of booking a room in an inn with a hot spring, you can do something even better in this part of Hokkaido by digging your own onsen!
The Egyptian pyramids stand strong in the scorching heat of the desert, as they have for over 4,500 years. It is said that the techniques that went into building them were well beyond those of human civilization at the time. They are mysteries wrapped inside of enigmas that continue to fascinate us from afar.
And apparently there is also a pyramid in Tochigi Prefecture, which really cuts down on the travel expenses for those of us in Japan wanting to bask in their wonder. One such spendthrift adventurer was RocketNews24’s own Masanuki Sunakoma, who went to investigate.
Japan may be a small country in terms of area, but it certainly makes up for it with 47 distinct prefectures that have their own vibrant personalities. Prefectures like Tokyo and Osaka dominate with their big city lifestyles, while Kyoto and Nara rely on their richly preserved history. Some have festivals that have survived for hundreds of years, others have geological formations that make them stand out or new attractions that you can’t find anywhere else.
For prefectures to separate themselves from the rest and showcase what makes them special, they have to do something grand. In Oita Prefecture, this means presenting their world-famous hot springs with a synchronized swimming team in what can only be known as “synchronized bathing”.
While dogs have no trouble emptying their bladders and bowels on busy streets in broad daylight, proudly locking eyes with you as they let rip right there on the pavement, members of the feline world are much more reserved when it comes to answering the call of nature. Even in the comfort of their own homes, kitties need their own space to do their business; no self-respecting cat would want the eyes of their human on them while they’re trying to go.
So it’s no wonder this clever new idea is getting a lot of attention in Japan. It’s the cat onsen, which houses your pet’s kitty litter box and comes complete with a cute spa-style noren curtain to provide some much needed privacy. Once your cat finishes using the kitty litter “sand bath” inside, they’ll emerge looking as fresh as a daisy!
In movies, there’s never anything good hidden in the earth under a structure. It’s all Native American burial grounds, Egyptian mummies, and other assorted other corpses of non-specific ethnicities.
In real life, though, there are all sorts of desirable things waiting beneath the surface, such as oil and gold. An excavation crew in Kobe was looking for something just as good as those two valuable commodities, though: a hot spring, and they found one right in the heart of the city.
Onsen etiquette can be confusing for a foreigner visiting for the first time, and there are many small rules and customs that even many Japanese people aren’t quite clear on. There aren’t usually any written instructions around the baths as it is expected that everyone will already know the basic customs surrounding communal bathing. This means that things people who have grown up in Japan take for granted, such as putting your shoes in a locker when you arrive or knowing which towels to use for what, can be hard to figure out for first-timers, and your supposedly relaxing spa break can become a little bit stressful.
Check out the video below to see how our Japan Wish competition winner Ashley navigated her first ever trip to an onsen and see if she found it relaxing…or stressful!
In the land of earthquakes, typhoons, blistering summers and mountains of snow in the winter, Japan’s plentiful and luxurious hot springs are Mother Nature’s way of letting us know that she doesn’t totally hate us.
But the number of true hot springs – where water naturally comes from the ground rather than being pumped in and then heated – is lower than you might imagine. Many places such as the new “hot spring” being built in Shinjuku have their water shipped in from a real hot spring source.
And now, if you live in the Kanto area, you can ship in your own hot spring water too! Why pay entry into some huge complex when you can soak in your own home bathtub away from the leering eyes of RocketNews24 journalists or tattoo-prudes. Oh, and did we mention it’s ridiculously cheap?
Do you love hot springs and spas? How about Tokyo? If so, we have good news for you! A new onsen (hot spring) spa, the largest in Tokyo, is currently under construction right here in beautiful Shinjuku! Even better, it’s set to open at the end of July.
We were so excited about this ginormous new relaxation spot, we sent a writer to check out the new spa, called Thermae-yu, to see how it’s looking these days. Along the way we learned a certain secret that’s not actually a secret, but may disappoint die-hard onsen fans.
On 23 June the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) announced that it would be conducting a first-of-its-kind study into public bathing facilities such as onsen (hot springs) and sento (bath houses), and their rules regarding tattoos.
Visitors to Japan are often warned that if they want to visit one of Japan’s hundreds of natural springs or meticulously designed baths they can’t be inked up. But how widespread is this rule in Japan really, and is it doing more harm than good in this day and age? These are the things the JTA hopes to learn more about in the weeks to come.
Going to an onsen hot spring is one of those quintessentially Japanese experiences that every visitor to the country should have. But is, sadly, an activity many westerners choose to skip for a number of reasons. Coming from a culture where taking a bath with another person is something you really don’t do beyond early childhood, the thought of walking around naked and sitting in a huge bath with a bunch of naked strangers can seem a bit unappealing. I myself was in Japan for two years before I finally decided to take the plunge, but once I did, I was hooked.
Our Japanese writers here at RocketNews24 decided to take a their American pal along for his first onsen experience at the famous Kusatsu Onsen. Find out what he thought of his first ever hot spring soak after the jump.
Tochigi local idol group Tochiotome 25 have once again released a music video showcasing the charms of their rural home town with “Yu” (release date: April 22). This one’s… a little different.
Many foreign visitors to Japan are curious about taking a dip in one of Japan’s many hot springs or sento public baths, but are deterred by two factors: the embarrassment of being naked in public, and the worry that even having a small tattoo – very much taboo in Japan – might result in being ejected from the premises. While the first issue is something that can be overcome with a little bravery, the second issue is undoubtedly a problem.
However, a resort inn in Nagano has now publicly stated that they will allow foreigners with small tattoos to enter, providing they cover up the offending ink with a patch.
Your first trip to Japan is bound to be a whirlwind visit as you try to pack so many things into a short period of time. Do go to Tokyo and see the white-gloved train pushers, the famous Shibuya scramble crossing, and many of the scenes depicted in anime and manga. Do go to Kyoto and see the shrines and temples that are simply amazing.
But as a country that has so much to offer, it can take years to really get to know and understand Japan, even when you live here. So if you want to take your understanding of Japan a step further, we’re here to suggest a few things you’ll want to experience in order to better understand Japanese culture: things that give you insight on what’s behind the Japanese way of thinking.
These experiences will help you understand who the Japanese people are, and why they act the way they do. Get ready to move from tourist to cultural expert after the jump!
Ask a Japanese person to give some examples of Chinese food, and they’ll likely reply with things like chaahan (fried rice) and the quintessential gyoza (pot-stickers). With their crispy fried outsides and juicy, flavorful insides, you can’t go wrong with gyoza, and many would say that Chinese food chain GYOZANOMANSYU (餃子の満州), based in the Kanto region of Japan, is the leader of them all.
Those wishing to take the gyoza experience a bit further can visit the hot-spring hotel Toumeikan in Gunma Prefecture, managed by GYOZANOMANSYU, and for a mere 5,900 yen per night (roughly US$59) you can stay in one of their cozy Japanese-style rooms, take a relaxing soak in the onsen hot springs, and get your fill at their breakfast buffet. Located deep in the mountains of Gunma, yet within a two- to three-hour drive from Tokyo, makes this a great place for a weekend getaway. Albeit one involving lots of garlic and chives.
With the invention of indoor plumbing and bathtubs (not really news to anyone, we’d hope), the traditional public bath houses and hot springs of Japan are now used for relaxing getaways more than actual hygienic necessity. Heck, even capybara soak in hot springs to relax!
Hot springs, known as onsen in Japanese, are also becoming popular with foreign visitors, at least those brave enough to bare it all in front of strangers. For health and safety reasons, there are quite a few rules to pay attention to when soaking in a public bath. A very nicely designed etiquette poster, which recently surfaced on TripAdvisor, is very thorough and is even teaching Japanese people a thing or two about the bathing experience!
Keiunkan Inn in Hayakawa, Yamanashi Prefecture is famous for holding the Guinness World Record for being “The oldest hotel in the world”. Established in 705 A.D., it boasts such notable former guests as daimyo Takeda Shingen, shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, and numerous emperors of Japan.
The inn itself is located in the southern alps of Yamanashi Prefecture, nestled in lush valleys in the very heart of nature. It’s the perfect location for escaping from the hustle and bustle of city life. What’s more, the inn is built upon prime hot springs ground, which means guests are able to enjoy numerous open-air and communal hot spring baths. Each room’s shower, bath and sink facilities are fed by pure hot spring water, which is neither treated nor heated by any artificial means. In fact, except for the toilets, the entire inn uses the hot springs water in its daily running, which makes it a very special and luxurious place to visit.
Our reporter, Yoshio, decided to book a stay in “the oldest hotel in the world” in order to share his experiences with the good readers of RocketNews24. Read on for many, many gorgeous photos of his trip!
For most travelers in Japan, the highlight of a trip to the hot springs is the rotenburo, or open-air bath. The idea of an alfresco dip is so appealing that drawing visitors to your hot spring inn or hotel becomes several degrees harder if you don’t have outdoor tubs.
But you shouldn’t write off indoor hot springs entirely, as they boast a couple of advantages. Having a roof over your head makes them a good choice for a rainy day, and being climate controlled means less shivering once you step out of the water. Plus, if you’re heading to Gunma Prefecture, soon one indoor hot spring will give you the chance to soak in the company of Hello Kitty.