I recently returned from a nostalgic trip to a beautiful hot spring village alongside a river on the Southern island of Kyushu. I first visited Kurokawa when I was a student in 1999 and I instantly fell in love with the place! When we returned to Japan, it was top of my list of places to visit.
My inner mermaid loves being in the water and the natural hot springs of Japan are no exception! There is nothing quite like embracing your river goddess nature with a dip in a bubbling hot spring next to a babbling brook. Quite simply, you feel divine!
In Japan, bathing in an ‘onsen’ or hot spring is a wonderful ritual that I simply adore! For any budding water goddess it is a rite of passage. However, for the first-timer it can be somewhat intimidating as you are required to bathe naked and there are certain rules of etiquette to observe in an onsen. Being born and raised in Britain where we are very prudish about public nudity, I have fiercely guarded my privacy and I was initially very nervous about exposing my body. Like the mermaid, I had to learn how to enjoy and nourish my body in a healthy way. Now, I find it very liberating!
Before entering the hot spring, it is important to wash thoroughly and purify yourself before entering the water. This in itself can be an exercise of self-love. I used to hurry to get all my washing done and leap into the hot spring before anyone saw me scampering across in the nude but now I take my time and consider it to be a ritual to myself. I would even go so far as to say that it has helped me with my self-esteem.
It is totally ok to be nervous about entering the realm of the hot spring and the arena of public bathing but once you sink into the healing power of the hot spring water you will soon forget what you were worrying about! The more nervous you are about doing it, the more I encourage you to give it a try as it will truly transform your relationship with your own body.
My favourite hot spring in Kurokawa was in the Fumoto Ryokan as you are surrounded by bamboo while you bathe. I was fortunate enough to have the hot spring to myself for a while and it was truly sublime to throw my head back, take a deep breath and bask in the intense green beauty of the view. I felt absolutely 100% like a goddess while I was in there!
In short, Kurokawa is a very special place and well worth the bus journey from Kumamoto. You can buy a one-day hot spring pass made from tree bark and this gives you access to three hot springs per day. Each time you enter a hot spring you collect a stamp so the pass itself makes a lovely souvenir. Alternatively, you can take your used pass to the local shrine before you leave.
How’s that for a divine end to your goddess trip?