Monday, November 10, 2008

Asahi Onsen - Slimy & Green ... Wonderful

Luckily, their main attraction, the 31°C ambient-temperature, 2x2 meter, mineral pool, appeared on their web page. The other three mineral pools include a refrigerated 1x2 meter 20°C pool (reserved for paid-sauna goers), the 2x4 meter 42°C pool, and the hot, 2x2 meter 46°C pool.

It took some time, using my faltering Japanese, to verify that the natural mineral water came out at 31°C and not at 20°C, the cold bath which looked greenish but lacked the oxygenated bubbles like the 31°C pool where bubbles accumulated on ones skin giving it a slimy texture. This natural pool felt more like the one found at Nada Onsen (Suidosuji) than at the closer Minatoyama Onsen.

Other onsen or sento might use the shallower, clear, artesian well water for its cold bath rather than refrigerating natural mineral water. Consequently, it is not refrigerated to maintain a set temperature and greatly varies more on the season.

Since I report on onsen, I tried the reputed 46°C pool. I could stand its heat up to chest deep for a minute or so. That was enough. Later, I told the 70-year-old woman at the reception desk that it wasn't popular because only two or three men soaked in this hot pool during the hour I was there. . She did say that in the evenings and on weekends there were plenty of men who soaked there. By my calculations, using a meat thermometer, the pool was only 44°C. This could be why I managed to stay in it for a while.

The fee of ¥380 allowed men to use seven pools plus the warm-hot steam sauna. For ¥500 men could enter into the hot sauna which came with a plastic key and a large, orange bath towel. Supposedly, the cold pool was also included with the added fee but regular bathers seemed to use it, as well. This hot, dry sauna with covered wooden benches and brick walls could seat 16 men, so I suppose one this size must be popular.

Four clear water pools and one forceful waterfall fill out the bathing options there. These include: 1) two 1.5 x 1.5 circular, bubble hot baths, 2) one, 120 cm. Width electric bath, 3) one sit-down jet bath, and 4) one, waterfall with two powerful streams beating down at shoulder width. These options are fairly common at sento, as well.

I visited Asahi Onsen, on Monday, November 17, 2008, from about one p.m. I mention the day and time because at this time of day only a dozen, or so, mostly young-elderly, and elderly men, were around. It wasn't crowded or noisy with children running and splashing about which could be the case on weekends and evenings.

One 60-year-old man sported a full-back tattoo of Kannon (Guanyin) but I didn't steel myself to ask if it were due to his religious convictions or not. He later looked like a good-natured fellow while talking with the reception desk staff so he must be a regular. Another man in his 50's had both his arms, from his elbows up, and his chest muscles darkly tattooed. Without spectacles, the inked images were unclear and it didn't feel right to look too intently at a person with such tattoos.

The two women at the reception desk guessed that this onsen has been there since about 1935. The photos of the drilling platform, along with the surrounding buildings, suggests that the drilling took place much later. Earth samples from the drilling, and the actual drill bits, provide some of the decoration for one room with electric massage chairs.

In addition to vending machines, the staff provide hot beverages like coffee and tea. Probably a cold beer and light food is also in store for those with more of an appetite.

Asahi Onsen is situated about halfway between JR Kobe and JR Hyogo, on the north side of the track. It's pink and orange, three-story structure with a happy, soaking family painted on it makes it hard to miss.
TEL 078-577-1836

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