Take a sand bath!
A traditional bath in Ibusuki, southern Japan, is somewhat different from most other baths. Forget water – this is all about sand. Dark warm sand and lots of it. The sand is said to do wonders. As a sand enthusiast, I’m prone to swear by it (despite no own experience of it – yet!).
Photo: Kagoshima Prefectural Visitors Bureau
To take a sand bath, you dress in a yukata robe, lay down in a sandpit, and let an attendant shovel warm sand over you until only your head sticks up. Then lay still, let the weight of the sand, the minerals in the sand and, the warmth of the sand do the wonder.
Sand bathing, or suna-mushi, is a 300-year-old tradition. Thousands of people come to this region for its therapeutic abilities. There are sand bath facilities all along the beach, a big public sand bath and several private ones. You can enjoy a sand bath under shaded roofs or in the open air with an umbrella to shade your face.
Steam rise as white smoke from the beach’s dark volcanic sand. It’s geothermal activity connected to the cone-shaped volcano nearby. Hot water heats the sand, the deeper the hotter. The dark grains themselves origin from the very same volcano. (In some hundred thousand years weathering will wear away the dark minerals and make the grains and the beach lighter. Unless the volcano keeps sending out more newborn dark grains).
A sand bath a day keeps the doctor away.
Improved health, boosted wellbeing is what makes sand bathing popular, then as now. The warmth, the weight and the steam work together. It’s a beauty treatment, moisturizing the skin. According to studies as one at the Medical Department of Kagoshima University, it can improve circulation and reduce joint pain. 10 to 15 minutes of sand bathing is recommended to sweat toxins out and get the sand bathing benefits in.
Sand bathing is only one of the reasons why Japan is on my sandy to go list. There’s so much more. The world’s biggest sand timer is here, sand grains shaped as stars linger on some beaches, fish make sand art in the ocean, there are sand museums and there’s sacred sand that can transform month-long pilgrimage walks to 1-hour strolls. More post must follow. Which are you most interested in hearing about?