2007/12/08

Dogo Onsen

One of the main attractions to Shikoku is Dogo Onsen. That's in Matsuyama. More details when I've had the chance to visit, but here is what I know so far. First of all, an onsen is a mineral bath. Dogo is Japan's oldest and most famous one. There is a streetcar in the town, still active but rare in Japan. The streetcar can take you to the "onsen town," Dogo. When people mention Dogo Onsen, they are referring not only to the bath house, but to the entire surrounding town.

The streetcar has 5 lines. Line 3 goes from Shieki station to Dogo, and line 5 goes from the JR (Japan Railways) station to Dogo. There actually isn't a line four, because four is not a lucky number in Japan, just as many Western buildings have no 13th floor. Actually, it's best to avoid the number four whenever you can. Take a look at any product packages, and you'll see that they usually come in sets of five.

A simple entry to the Kami-no-Yu (Bath of the Gods) costs 300 yen (about US$3), but you get nothing extra, meaning bring soap and a towel. For another 320 yen, you can borrow a yukata (robe) and receive green tea and rice crackers after your bath.

If you prefer, try the Tama-no-Yu (Bath of the Spirits) for a total of 980 yen (about US$10). It's said to be a step up, but again I've yet to try it.

There is a special bathing room for the Imperial Family, but you can only see it briefly, for 210 yen.

Nearby, check out Isaniwa Shrine. Don't forget to try the local specialty, Botchan Dango, which are balls of mochi rice on a stick. The rice has been pounded into a glutinous paste. The three balls are different colors. One is colored by red beans, the second by eggs, and the third by green tea.

I've heard this is best as an overnight trip. You don't have to spend a lot on hotels, although can if you like. There is the Matsuyama Youth Hostel (where you can also get courses on bending spoons and reading auras), and that costs 2,900 yen a day. Higher on the scale, there is Dogo Kan, which costs at least 17,500 yen and probably more. Both worth exploring, depending on where you are coming from.

U.S. Culture Point: There are just a few onsen in the United States. During my childhood, our family didn't often take baths, actually. Not even in the house, because we used a shower. And, we would shower in the morning to start the day. In Japan, people generally bathe at night in a bathing area, before getting into a bath of clean, hot water, just to soak. Since bathing is so much more common in Japan, there are many onsen. But let's talk about a special one in America, called Ojo Caliente. If you ever visit the state of New Mexico from Japan, please check it out. There is also an onsen in New Mexico that echoes a Japanese onsen, called Ten Thousand Waves. It's up to you. If you've never been to Japan and want that kind of experience, like getting Japanese food in America, I suggest you'd enjoy Ten Thousand Waves very much. If you're already familiar with mineral baths and care more about being surrounded by nature, I suggest a private mineral bath at Ojo Caliente. Ten Thousand Waves does offer private baths, but the last time I checked, their tubs were synthetic, while those at Ojo Caliente felt more natural. In America it is expensive to do this, and it's considered by many to be "a treat." Something special, or a gift item. Few people could afford to visit an onsen every day. So, onsen are not used for general health as much in America.

1 comment:

kazu said...

dogo onsen is the model of the sen to chihiro no kamikakushi.
you know that?