| Saturday, Sept. 9
Saturday night in Matsuyama
Kazuko and Neal met us at the airport and we drove straight to
the onsen (hot springs and public bath) at Tsukasa Hotel,
one of dozens
of onsens in Matsuyama, to get cleaned up.
By the end of our trip we would become onsen connoisseurs,
enjoying the relaxing ritual and its soothing effects on our overworked
biking muscles: You wash yourself while seated on a stool in front of the
faucets (you use a little wooden or plastic basin to rinse, and often there
is also a showerhead on a flexible hose), then soak in the spring-fed pool
of warm water, then rinse off or just get out and sit on the edge of the
pool to cool off, then soak again, and repeat as many times as you want.
Bathing this way can take an hour or more.
The setting (indoor or outdoor decor and landscaping), water
temperature, mineral content and supposed health benefits of the water
vary from onsen to onsen. The pools may be made of tile or
stone. Sometimes there are multiple pools, with features such as bubble
jets, streams of falling water to massage your back and shoulders, pebble
floors to massage your feet, mud to smooth onto your skin, saunas, steam
baths, and cold-water pools. Typically there are separate dressing rooms
and baths for men and women. You leave your clothes and towel in the dressing
area and take only a washcloth to the bath. Soap and shampoo are provided,
or you may bring your own. While soaking, you leave your washcloth in your
basin or wear it on your head.
In Kyushu some onsens are co-ed. Women may wear towels
around their bodies or hold their washcloth lengthwise in front of them,
and men may hold their washcloth in front of their groin. Couples or families
may bathe together in kazoku buro (family baths), and other couples
or families wait their turn for these private settings.