As a volcanic island chain, Japan is blessed with innumerable hot springs, making it inevitable that the people who live here love a good soak.
Perhaps the queen of all of Japan’s hot springs (onsen) areas is the city of Beppu, in Oita Prefecture. Situated on a bay on the northeast coast of the island of Kyushu, Beppu is otherwise surrounded by volcanoes, most notably Mt. Beppu and Mt. Tsurumi. Although it has been a millenia since these volcanoes have erupted, the abundance of hot springs in the area implies that they are still active on some level. Indeed, Beppu is regarded as the largest area of natural hot springs in Japan, with eight separate spa areas within the city limits and more than 200 separate onsen baths to choose from.
But these days travelers have so many choices of ways to relax and have fun that many onsens are finding it hard to attract sufficient visitors. While one of the attractions for many onsen-goers is the relaxed atmosphere that many regard as a more “traditional” vacation, that doesn’t stop promoters from using more modern methods to appeal to new audiences. One example is a perky little You-tube video released last week by the City of Beppu featuring a “spamusement park” and a promise by the mayor of Beppu to build it if the video got a million views (as of today, it has nearly 1.8 million views and the mayor has announced that he and his team will begin to make plans).
Another fun onsen video is this one prepared by Oita Prefecture featuring many of the prefecture’s most famous hot springs, including several in Beppu, but with the interesting twist of synchronized swimming. Note also how the traditional onsen mark of three wisps of steam rising from a tub has been stylized to the synchronized swimmers legs, too.
Personally, I’m quite contented to just sit and soak in a good hot bath, and enjoy the effects of the minerals on my skin afterward. But I have to admit, I’ve never had the privilege of having a synchronized swimming team step into my bath!
(Apologies! I’m still new to blogging and could not figure out how to embed the videos into the above post, so could only include links. I hope you enjoy the videos, nonetheless.)