Slip into hot-spring water and feel the world slipping away. Nowhere is this more true than in Japan, where bathing has become a refined art of both relaxation and healing. Since ancient times hot springs have been an oasis for the weary traveler, a place to soothe and rejuvenate the body, mind, and spirit and regain a sense of oneness with nature.
One such place where the modern-day traveler can still find such respite from the world is at the Donguri-no-Yu Spa in the quiet mountain town of Inabu in Aichi Prefecture. Just over an hour's drive northeast of Nagoya, the town of Inabu stands at the crossroads of two ancient highways that once served as vital pathways connecting the coastal regions with the mountainous hinterlands of central Japan.
Today Inabu continues to be a crossroads attracting people from far and wide who come to take in the local hot spring. In fact, over 20,000 people a month visit the local baths, and a busy weekend can see as many as 3,000 visitors on a single day.
A clear-running stream near Donguri-no-Yu.
Though the Donguri-no-Yu Spa is quite new and modern, having opened in April 1998, there is evidence of a much older history. During the construction of the neighboring welfare center, Jomon-period (ca 10,000 BC-ca 300 BC) artifacts were unearthed, along with piles of old acorns, food for the local people 3,000 years ago. Thus the name given to the modern spa, Donguri-no-Yu, meaning, "Acorn Waters."
If you ask the manager of the spa, Kazuei Imanishi, why Donguri-no-Yu is so special, he will tell you about its particularly therapeutic baths. According to him, "What makes this hot spring different from many others is the wide variety of special baths we have available."
Inside the spacious, new two-floor complex, including restaurants, lounge areas, and a market selling many local delicacies, there are over 10 varieties of baths to relax in. There is the waterfall bath on the first floor, designed to provide a deep and effective massage to the head and shoulders. There are also the full-body massage baths, herbal baths, a sauna, and a luxurious outdoor Jacuzzi offering a view of the surrounding mountains.
The mountains of Aichi are beautiful at any time of the year, and for the traveler enjoying the many sights and natural beauty of the area, a visit to Donguri-no-Yu can top off any experience.