When it comes to all things unique, the Japanese are almost always there with some random invention or innovation, which most in the West regard as different, if not downright bizarre.
The Japanese are worldly-renowned and highly respected for their contribution to everything from technology to health. Sand bathing is the latest innovation to become popular among tourists visiting Kyushu, Japan’s third largest island.
Kyushu, is home to numerous hot springs, the most famous of which are in the cities of Beppu and Ibusuki. These cities, with their balmy subtropical climate and bubbling volcanic waters, are major tourist destinations. One of their most popular attractions is the hot-spring bathing, known as onsen.
However, there exist a few spas in these cities that offers a highly relaxing experience – sand bathing!
Sand bathing basically involves getting buried in a large pit of volcanic sand for up to 30 minutes. The experience is not only soothing and satisfying, but believed to be highly therapeutic as well. It is apparently great for treating infertility, diabetes, anemia and asthma, and is also said to aid in weight loss.
The bathing areas consist of a huge boxes of sand, heated up with natural hot spring water. When the sand is thoroughly soaked in the water and steaming hot, the water is drained. Visitors are then let into the box and asked to lie down, as workers shovel copious amounts of sand on top of them. The bathers remain buried until the sand cools down, and are then directed to bathing facilities to wash the dirt off.
Once the box is empty, the heating process is started again, which takes about 30 minutes. So tickets to the bath are sold at 30-minute intervals, and there are only a limited number of spots per session. The ticket comes with a traditional Japanese cotton robe called ‘yukata’, and a towel. The garment helps keep the sand from sticking to the body, and also acts as a sort of insulation against the heat. A wooden pillow is also provided, which serves as a head rest.
According to the people who do it, the experience is said to be highly soothing and relaxing, as well as therapeutic and healthy for their skin and for the general well-being. With tourists saying that while the bathing itself was strange and a little uncomfortable, the after-effect is amazing.
The weight (of the sand) coming off is far more of a relief than escaping from the heat. I push the sand aside and sit, in sudden and complete joy. I feel alert and light. I feel recharged rather than relaxed, and the effect can last for several hours, without that collapse into sleepiness that can follow heat treatment and spa sessions. I can’t rightly say that it made me healthy, but it certainly made me happy,” says Journalist Bee Rowlatt.
Rowlatt may have enjoyed her experience at the sand bathing spa, however, the National Geographic reporter Andrew Evans didn’t.
“I tried desperately to relax but kept checking that clock, thirteen minutes, fourteen minutes; fourteen minutes and thirty-four seconds, thirty-six seconds. Afterwards, I lingered under a long, cold shower that proved beneficial in curing me from the effects of the heat.”
As an after thought, the concept of sand bathing is actually a common practice among animals (like dogs). They just roll around in the sand in order to clean or dry their fur, feathers or skin. The behavior is common among a wide range of mammalian and avian species – and sometimes it is even necessary to get rid of parasites.
via The Telegraph