Japan is famous for its hot springs and Kyushu has its fair share of them! I love going for dips in the Japanese onsens, but in this post I will focus on ashiyu (hot spring foot baths).
Those who are too shy to "bare all" at the traditional hot spring baths can try this alternative where all you are required to do is remove your footwear (including socks/stockings if you are wearing any) and dip your feet into the hot spring water. If you are wearing trousers, please ensure that you roll them up so that they won't get wet when you are dipping your feet!
Ashiyu may not be commonly found in Japanese cities, but usually the hot spring towns will have some - you just have to make an effort to look out for them! Typically you can use them free-of-charge, but some could be located within the premises of tourist attractions with an admission fee, although the foot bath facilities themselves can be used for free.
My travels took me to the hells at Beppu, where to my delight, I found several ashiyu!
Ashiyu at Umi Jigoku (Sea Hell) - the water here was scalding hot!
I put my feet in and immediately drew them out! Thus, I was puzzled as to how the other people seemed to be seated comfortably and enjoying the hot water! The temperature at this one was higher than other foot baths that I had previously tried. I made several attempts to dip my feet but still found it too hot and gave up after a while. Even a Japanese man who arrived later than me was shouting "atsui atsui!" (meaning it's hot!)
Anyway, soaking your feet is good for blood circulation, so you can give it a go if you are visiting Umi Jigoku.
The next place I visited was Kamado Jigoku (Oven Hell), which in the past was used for cooking various foods. I found a dry foot bath here, where stones were heated up by the geothermal activity. My feet were cold from the weather and the stones were really hot! Ouch!!
There was another spot for both hand and foot bath which I didn't try as it appeared to be steaming hot!
Further in at Kamado Jigoku, you can find the typical ashiyu but there were busloads of Korean tourists who arrived during my visit, so I didn't try it as I don't like mingling with crowds. They all seemed to enjoy it very much!
An unexpected place to find a hot spring foot bath was at Kijima Kogen Park. I had visited this theme park as I wanted to ride on their wooden roller coaster and was pleasantly surprised that it had a fairly large sized ashiyu which had a bird's eye view of the park.
The water here has two different temperatures at the higher and lower ends, so you can choose which one feels more comfortable and sit there and soak your feet.
If you are visiting Yufuin by train, the station itself has a foot bath which only passengers with a train ticket can enjoy. However, if you visit the town by bus (like I did), there is a souvenir shop located just opposite the JR train station which has a free foot bath that customers can enjoy. The waters here are not as hot as that at the Beppu hells.
To prepare for the times when you may stumble upon a foot bath and want to soak your feet, I would recommend that you always bring a small towel with you when you are travelling about, so that you can wipe your feet dry after. ^_^
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