K A N A G A W A
For those who want a bit of a breather from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo's city streets, head over to Kanagawa Prefecture, a lesser visited area within the same Kanto Region. In just an 1.5 hour train ride away, it's like seeing a completely different side to Japan, from its huge metropolitan areas to its natural wonders as beautiful as a painting, making Kanagawa a popular weekend side trip destination for many city-goers. Kanagawa also has its big city and capital, Yokohama, but is known namely for its abundance of onsens, or natural hot springs, and amazing views of Mount Fuji.
Like the rest of Japan, Hakone in Kawagawa was once an area teeming with active volcanoes, resulting in mineral-rich soil and rugged terrains. What remains of the landscape today creates a cradle for over 20 different types of hot springs, each with their own special properties from the varying elevation, region, and geology of the area. Like a hot spring buffet, each of these onsens have volcanic ash, rich with minerals, dissolved into their waters, and offer unique remedies. Some of these include:
You'll know you're in one of these onsens just by the sulfuric smell and milky white color of the water. Sulfer waters boast amazing health benefits from the gas it emits, which has been famously known to clear one's breathing and widen blood vessels. Great for those with heart disease and cardiovascular ailments!
These waters are, as the name states, rich with iron. As you may already know, iron is found mainly in your red blood cells, so as you bathe, your skin absorbs the water's iron components, making it ideal for those with anemia and menopausal/menstruation pains and disorders. This is an amazing and effective spring for women, which is why its also known as "Fujin-no-yu", which translates to "Water of Women."
Like the carbonation we're used to in soda, these waters are bubbly! They're super effective in improving blood circulation, making it great for waste removal throughout the entire body. It's the perfect way to get a whole-body detox. Carbonated onsens are actually pretty hard to come by, so if you spot one, best take advantage of its remedial properties.
Don't let the word "acid" scare you, the levels of acid in these onsens are very gentle and work like an acid peel would. Acidic onsens melt away old layers of skin, revealing the youthful, brighter skin underneath. They also help heal scars and alleviate chronic skin diseases. If you have very sensitive skin, it's best you stay away from acidic waters, and for those who do take a dip, make sure you wash your body with fresh water afterwards!
Alkaline Waters (Our Favorite!):
And as far as skincare goes, alkaline thermal hot springs are the way to go! The alkaline levels of these baths are gentle and helps with softening the skin by sloughing away the cutaneous sebum at the surface, exfoliating our skin to feel silky smooth. The warm water itself almost feels like liquid silk against our skin, like soap! No wonder alkaline onsens are called "Bijin-no-yu", which translates to "Onsen of Beauty."
Take a break from the relentless blinking lights of the city, and slip away into peaceful bliss. No matter which onsen you decide to submerge yourself into, just know all of these different hot springs can alleviate stress and help recover your body from fatigue.
Of course we can't leave Japan without getting a glimpse of its iconic Mount Fuji and you're already in the right place! Hakone in Kanagawa is also one of the best places to catch the marvelous vista. Lake Ashi, or Ashi-no-ko, translates to "lake of reeds" for its surrounding natural scenery, making it a popular site for hikers and visitors who climb its hills to view Mount Fuji's splendor in full. Hakone Shrine is another lovely addition to our trip. It sits at the base of Mount Hakone by the shores of Lake Ashi and offers a moment of undisturbed tranquility deep within the shrouded forests. It's iconic lakefront torii, or gate, almost looks like a portal to paradise!