Kyushu, the third largest island of Japan, is home to numerous hot springs, the most famous of which are in the cities of Beppu and Ibusuki. These cities, with their balmy subtropical climate and bubbling volcanic waters, are major tourist destinations. One of their most popular attractions is hot-spring bathing, known as onsen, offered by various spas. But there exist a few spas in these cities that offer a lesser known, highly relaxing experience – sand bathing!
Sand bathing basically involves getting buried in a large pit of volcanic sand for up to 30 minutes. The experience is not only soothing and satisfying, but believed to be highly therapeutic as well. It is apparently great for treating infertility, diabetes, anaemia and asthma, and is also said to aid in weight loss.
The bathing areas consist of a huge boxes of sand, heated up with natural hot spring water. When the sand is thoroughly soaked in the water and steaming hot, the water is drained. Visitors are then let into the box and asked to lie down, as workers shovel copious amounts of sand on top of them. The bathers remain buried until the sand cools down, and are then directed to bathing facilities to wash the dirt off.