Nestled in the alpine region of Gunma is Kusatsu Onsen「草津温泉」, of the country’s most famous bathing resorts. The restorative health benefits of its piping hot, highly acidic water are said to have been discovered by German doctor and anthropologist Erwin Balz, who put the volcanic region on the map for thousands of bathing devotees to come.
When I say the water is piping hot, I mean uncomfortably and sometimes frighteningly hot. There is a method of dealing with this deterring fact of nature – full and swift submersion, with the water line coming to rest above your heart level so your blood temperature rises at the same speed your skin does. I observed 80+ women do this as if relaxing into a comfortable armchair, whereas I struggled at first to get more than a shin in. If you manage to avoid the searing toes and dizzying first few moments, you’ll have one hell of a good bathing experience.
Photos by Eloise Rapp.