By Jennifer Johnston
Trudging along the snow-covered village streets, I’m unable to look up and take in my new surroundings. The snow on the ground is thick and crunches underfoot. I’m doing my best not to slip and fall on the discreet icy patches. Usually I’m a curious observer, but today I’m cautiously following my friend’s snowy footsteps, as we make our way to an onsen.
With a name like Nozawa Onsen, it would be sacrilege to not have at least one onsen experience. This traditional Japanese village, in the Nagano prefecture, on Japan’s Honshu island boasts 14 public hot spring baths. Nozawa Onsen (meaning hot spring village) with a population of around 4000, transforms into a busy ski town in winter.
With our ski day over, we’re in pursuit of relaxation when we arrive at the Furusato No Onsen. Once onsen etiquette has been followed, I’m keen to try the outdoor bath. I step outside of the steamy inner room into the brisk air, and into the welcoming 39°C heated water. Conversations from other women are hushed, respectfully preserving the tranquillity. Watching the snow falling beyond the timber roof awning and feeling the warm mineral water ease my aching joints, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
It’s suggested the naked communion experience the onsen provides, is a way of helping break down Japan’s traditional ritual barriers. Stripped of our clothing, we’re the same. Beyond that, the soothing heat and minerals work magically on aching muscles – a truly divine experience.
Finally, I’ve decided to pursue my passion for writing and travel. Its only taken me three decades to make this decision! I live in Brisbane with my three sons, a dog and a canary. In the future, I’ve plans to take sabbaticals in foreign locations and write about the experiences.