When winter rolls around, it may seem tempting to retreat indoors until the warm weather returns. Yet doing so would mean missing the opportunity to experience one of the greatest pleasures Japan has to offer – thawing the winter from your bones with a steaming hot onsen!
Nagasaki Prefecture is an ideal place to do so, as the properties of the water from the hot springs vary across the prefecture, meaning that each town offers a completely different bathing experience.
To help you choose the perfect onsen town to visit, we've put together a guide to the prefecture's greatest bathing spots. We've also included just some of the great activities you can do, and cafes and sightseeing spots you can visit before or after your trip to the onsen. Soon, you won't be wondering which onsen you should visit, you'll be wondering which onsen you should visit first!
Nagasaki's coastal location means that it is easy to access many of the nearby islands. Tiny Ioujima can be reached by a short bus ride from Nagasaki Station, or an even shorter boat trip on one of the frequent ferries departing from Nagasaki Ferry Terminal.
At just 12 kilometres long, this compact island is easy to explore either by foot or on bike. It's a popular summer beach spot for locals, but if you stroll by the beach outside of the August swimming season, it's likely to be pleasantly deserted.
Treat yourself to a speciality spa
There are several massage parlors and spas located around the island's hot spring resort, the Nagasaki Onsen Yasuragi Ioujima やすらぎ伊王島. Treatments include the Yomogi Steam, a South Korean technique that envelops the lower body in Japanese mugwort steam and improves circulation.
Yasuragi's specialty is the enzyme spa—a skin treatment designed to increase metabolism and strengthen the immune system. The process is deceptively simple: guests climb into a box and are covered in a layer of fermented rice bran.
Heated by 100% natural chemical reactions, the bran cleanses the skin and causes sweating. Meanwhile, guests can opt to have their faces washed with organic cleansers including tea, honey, fruit, and vegetable mixes.
When the process is finished, the remaining bran is used as an all natural fertilizer for the resort's fruit and vegetable gardens. Travelers with green thumbs can even pick up packages of the bran at the souvenir shop for use in their own gardens.
It's a well-known fact that food can make or break a trip, but in that respect the Yasuragi resort excels. Its restaurants, Uraraka and Amimoto Shokudo, craft edible works of art with fresh seafood and organic ingredients.
The resort offers Western and Japanese Traditional cuisine, but the real draw isn't what meal you order, but how it's made. Yasuragi's restaurants run on ingredients that are largely grown on the island, or the resort itself.
Salads and dishes are peppered with Yasuragi's very own olives while shrimp, oysters, and fish freshly caught in Nagasaki, Iki, and Goto are served in gorgeous bouquets of radish, cucumber, and sweet potato. Amimoto Shokudo's specialty is flounder, "hirame" in the native tongue, fished and hauled from the nearby island of Takeshima with a fresh flavor you can only find in Nagasaki.
Whatever you choose to eat, the perfect end to any meal on Ioujima is its specialty olive oil ice cream. You may be skeptical as you watch a hearty serving of Ioujima-made olive oil being poured over your bowl of soft serve. However, the soft fruity flavour of the olive oil perfectly complements the sweet ice cream, and you'll soon be a convert to this unusual dessert.
If you enjoyed your Ioujima culinary experience, why not take some of the flavor home? Yasuragi's restaurants and souvenir shop offer food and spices from Ioujima and its neighbors ranging from Nagasaki City to Goto.
Nagasaki Onsen Yasuragi Ioujima
Nagasaki Onsen Yasuragi Ioujima, a hotel and spa with world-class facilities that are guaranteed to refresh even the most stubborn of bodies.
Yasuragi boasts two decadent onsen spots. Yuyu, located minutes away from Ioujima's port, and Shimakaze no Yu a short walk away. Between them, they offer a dizzying array of tubs, baths, pools, and saunas.
Patrons can indulge in stony footbaths, skin-cleansing saltwater pools, barrel tubs, refreshing saunas, and outdoor baths overlooking the Ioujima coast. Nothing spells 'relaxing' quite like viewing the sunset while a calm sea breeze caresses your face!
The resort also boasts private baths — hourly suites perfect for families and couples that include outdoor and indoor baths, a sauna, and a sofa to relax on. Even better, food ordered from the neighboring Amimoto Shokudo is delivered straight to your suite. Whether you're traveling alone or in a group, Yasuragi has a perfect bath for any occasion.
The Nagazasshi is Nagasaki's No. 1 English language magazine. You can read it online at www.nagazasshi.com
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Collaboration Pages: January-February 2016 issue
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