Monday, January 28, 2013

Introducing Bathing on Rocks -- Ganbanyoku (岩盤浴)

Lying on rocks is a great way to relax after a hard day at the office. The rocks might be flat slabs of heated granite, or thousands of tiny rocks that warm your body, like a thick quilt.  Ganbanyoku, (岩盤浴), is a "bathing" method that is spreading in popularity across Japan, and from Japan to other countries, because it feels so invigorating.  Low, comfortable, constant heat opens your skin pores, and you sweat out the dirt and impurities from your body while dozing or spacing out in softly lit rooms. The rocks below you are heated through the floor. Afterwards, a more traditional Japanese onsen, or hot spring, will leave your skin soft and pure.

Lying on Heated Rock Salt
One of the best places to get on hot rocks is Ryusenji-no-yu (竜泉寺の湯), a hot spring facility in Nagoya, which has various hot-water baths and an entire floor of ganbanyoku rooms, each containing miscellaneous herbs or minerals and heated to different temperatures. The lowest temperature is 39.8 Celsius and the highest is 54.3 Celsius. There is even a dry sauna that reaches 91.9 degrees and an air-conditioned room for those mentally relaxed, but heat-stressed visitors to cool down before the next round. In winter, another choice for cooling off is to walk outside on the outdoor deck and enjoy the Nagoya vista.

Charcoal and Bags of Yomogi (Japanese mugwort)
Yomogisumibo (よもぎ炭房)is the name of a heated room with walls that have charcoal and bags of a Japanese herb called yomogi , or in English mugwort, on them. Yomogi is sometimes eaten as tempura. It is also used in traditional medicine to cure rheumatism and other joint problems. Some people put it in their bath water to reduce skin problems. Charcoal is believed to absorb impurities in the air. Many Japanese people keep charcoal in various areas of their homes to reduce mold. Some people put charcoal in water containers for fresh-tasting water.
Hot Rock Salt on the Stomach Reduces Tummy Aches
Some people such as the person above place hot rocks directly on body parts requiring attention. Unlike the hot water baths which immediately heat the whole body, the heat from the rocky floors slowly enters through a towel and the thick, loose garb that bathers must all wear. For people who are not accustomed to the sensation of entering an almost scalding bath, ganbanyoku is a good option. Since no one is naked, it is also better for people who are ashamed of their bodies or are just uncomfortable with public nudity. Women wear burgundy and men wear dark brown garb. There is no need to worry about money. Each bather receives a wristband. To buy fresh water, juices, or ice cream, etc. show the band to the cashier who records the number for payment when departing.  In between the rooms for hot-rock bathing is a large tatami floor with foam mats. Resting or falling asleep between baths is common. Others watch TV or chat with friends. The environment is relaxed-social. Since there is no nudity, mixed bathing is the norm. I have seen couples holding hands while sleeping on hot rocks.
Relaxation Time Between Relaxing
The floor of the Germanium Room is processed germanium rocks. These smooth, small rocks, about an inch in length, move around your body as your weight settles into the mass of rocks. The sensation is similar to laying on a waterbed, but one that doesn't surge from side to side. The comfy snugness will remind your inner child of being back in the womb. That is what I imagined while in a hypnagogic hallucination brought on, not by drugs, but by being sleepy in a warm environment. Germanium is a controversial element that is used in some alternative medical circles, but the American Cancer Society warns that it could be harmful to health.
For Hard-Core-Sweat Junkies - 92.3 Celsius Sauna
The wet Japanese hot spring baths are also good at Ryusenji-no-yu. In fact, the variety of baths is wonderful. There are so many baths that a map of the baths is provided by the management. The only point that I did not like was the television on a wall on the side of one of the outdoor baths. Televisions just do not match my image of a peaceful, healing Japanese hot spring environment. However, there are so many baths and the bathing area is so large that it is easy to avoid the television noise. Thai massages and various other healthful treatments are available, too. Japan has a reputation for being expensive, but large hot spring facilities like this one offer good value for money. After paying the hot spring admission fee of five hundred yen (ganbanyoku is an additional two hundred yen), one can hang out and relax all day. The admission for both is  equivalent to approximately eight U.S. dollars. I recommend this facility to anyone in Nagoya City.
One of the Many Varieties of Wet Baths

Map for Outdoor Baths
TVs Should Be Banned from Hot Springs