Japan’s onsen (hot springs) are one of the main attractions for incoming tourists. You may have heard about onsen being generally good for your health and skin. However, not all onsen are the same: different types of onsen are said to have different therapeutic effects. Which onsen should you soak in for curing which ailment?
Sulphur Spring (io sen)
Due to the high sulphur content, this onsen doesn’t smell very good: it reeks of eggs that have gone bad. In spite of the pungent smell, it is said to have therapeutic effects for people suffering from chronic bronchitis, diabetes and high blood pressure. Sulphur is also one of the natural cures for acne and blemishes on the skin, so this hot spring is recommended to people who want to clarify their complexion.
Acidic Spring (sansei sen)
While the onsen’s acidic properties provide an antibacterial effect, it is not suitable for everyone: for people with a sensitive skin the acid might be too irritating. This type of onsen is said to be useful in treating rheumatism and even make the skin more beautiful as the acid would slough off the dead skin cells. The spring has a tightening effect on the skin so it is recommended for those who are suffering from sagging skin.
Simple Thermal Spring (tanjun onsen)
Any spring which does not contain a high enough concentration of minerals would be categorized as a simple thermal spring. This spring can be found easily in Japan, and its health effects are minimal. Still, soaking in a hot tub can feel very relaxing, so this can be the perfect choice for an onsen beginner.
The Sodium Bicarbonate Saline Spring (tansan suiso ensen)
This onsen is a favorite for many ladies, as it is said to make the skin smooth. It is also known as the “water for beautiful skin”. In fact, there are people who use sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) as a DIY facial mask!
Sulphate Spring (ryusan sen)
There are 3 types of sulphate spring: magnesium, calcium, and sodium. This kind of onsen is not only good for healing cuts and bruises, it is supposedly also useful for people who suffer from chronic constipation and arteriosclerosis. The water is also said to provide moisture to the skin, and it acts like a skin toner.
Ferruginous (iron) Spring (gantetsu sen)
There are two types of ferruginous springs: carbonated iron springs and melanterite springs. Due to the high iron content, this type of onsen is said to be beneficial for people with disorders that will make your red blood cell count go low, such as anemia and menstrual disorders. Do not be alarmed by the brown color of the spring, as it is due to the iron content and not dirt!
Aluminium Spring (ganaruminiumusen)
This onsen has acidic properties, which provide sterilizing effects. It also has a bitter taste. It is said to be useful in treating various skin diseases such as athlete’s foot, rashes and chronic dermatitis.
Chloride Spring (enka butsusen)
The Chloride Spring comes in 3 varieties: Salt, Calcium, and Magnesium. This type of onsen is said to heal cuts and burns due to the high salt content. It is also said to promote hydration of the skin and helps you to retain body heat (this is nice in winter time!).
Carbonated Water Spring (tansan sen)
This type of onsen improves the blood circulation and helps to detox your body. A unique property of this spring is that you will find many tiny bubbles sticking onto your skin while you bathe in this onsen! There is a beauty trend in Japan where people cleanse their skin with carbonated water.
Radioactive Spring or “hoshano sen”
This spring contains small amounts of radioactive minerals. While it may sound harmful, it is actually beneficial for gout, high blood pressure, and rheumatism.
Now that you know about the different types of onsen, you may search for one that is most appealing to you, especially if you are suffering from certain diseases. If you are not fussy about getting nude, then just hop into any onsen not only for the sake of a cultural experience in Japan, but also to boost your health and looks!