Aside from skiing and hiking, Zao is mostly famous for its hot springs (onsen). Apparently, they were discovered in 110AD, when a wounded warrior pulled an arrow from his arm, and washed it in the stream. The injury recovered overnight, and since then the springs at Zao have become famous. Although miracles are scarce these days, the really acidic waters (we read ph1 somewhere, but surely that would burn your skin?!), which have an average natural temperature of up to 52ºC, are supposed to be great for skin conditions and stomach problems. I can't honestly say that either my stomach or my skin felt noticeably better afterwards, but after a long day hiking, they certainly did my muscles a world of good!
We relaxed a lot in the onsen at our hotel, as well as heading to the Dai Rotenburo, a famous open air bath that can apparently hold up to 200 people. Personally, I don't relish the idea of squeezing in with 199 other naked bodies, so I'm glad it was fairly deserted the day we went. It's built right into the stream, and it was gorgeous! As with all onsens, there were seperate male and female sections, and you go in naked. Because of that, photos are strictly not allowed, but since there was nobody else there when I was, I took a couple of sneaky ones on my phone, both at the hotel onsen, and the public one. Shhhh, don't tell anyone!
Walking through the gorgeous town, there is steam rising off every stream, including this water wheel!
Entrance into the hotel's onsen
The indoor pool in the women's onsen...
...with lots of rubber duckies for playing with!
The women's outdoor onsen at the hotel. It was a perfect temperature, and sitting in it and looking up at the stars was blissful!
View from the hotel, across the mountains
On the morning before we left, we went to Dai Rotenburo,
It's really simple and natural, and on this quiet Tuesday morning, it was perfect!
Sitting in the onsen, looking up this lovely river :)