Just a quick update before I go to bed :)
The hostel I’m staying in is luckily (or strategically?) located a short walk from Dogo Onsen, a famous hot spring in Japan for many reasons. First, it’s one of the oldest onsen in Japan. Second, former emperors have used the hot spring, although the last time this happened was in 1952 according to Japan-Guide.com. However, there are specific rooms, a private bath, and private toilet just for the emperor should he ever decide to visit. Third, Dogo Onsen used to be a favourite retreat for the famous Japanese writer, Natsume Soseki and it is mentioned in his book, “Botchan.”
A fourth reason, if you like anime like me, is that apparently, Dogo Onsen was at least a partial inspiration for the bathhouse in the award-winning animated film “Spirited Away.”
So, of course, I had to try it. It was an especially nice way to relax after all the cycling I did. I chose one of the more expensive options (¥1200), which gives you access to the Tama no Yu (a smaller but nicer and less busy bath), a rental yukata and towel, tea and crackers in a public tatami room, and finally, a guided tour of the emperor’s rooms and private bath. I did not understand a word of the tour but it was interesting to see, nonetheless.
Trying out a public bath is a truly Japanese experience that takes Westerners way outside their comfort zone. When you enter the bathing room, you do so butt naked. Fortunately, it’s gender segregated and if it’s any consolation, everyone is just as naked as you are. I was lucky. I had the bathing room all to myself when I went in.
Turns out the hot spring water must be nice. My skin definitely feels softer, and the shampoo I used made my nair nice and smooth. Awesome!