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Picture this: You are immersed in the soothing waters of a hot spring while the chill of winter swirls around you and an achingly beautiful natural landscape forms a fitting backdrop. This is the experience onsens (hot springs) of Japan promise and many have ventured to the country to enjoy this must-try experience.
Thankfully, you do not have to travel to a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) to be treated to omotenashi (Japanese art of hospitality). There are Japanese-style spas right here in Singapore that will pamper you in true Nippon fashion.
Source: Ikeda Spa
This five-star spa brings the total Japanese experience to Singapore. Styled after the ryokans of the Edo Period, their onsen sits before an artificial window that features Japan’s famous naturescape to replicate the outdoor onsen experience. They also have colourful yukatas (casual kimonos) you can don to enjoy hot tea and biscuits on a tatami mat after your spa experience.
Their Hinoki Sento Onsen Bath is designed in the fashion of Japanese public bathhouses. Special cypress wood called hinoki from which the bath gets its name is used to construct the bathtub. This wood is the most prized in Japan, reserved only for royals to build their palaces, temples and shrines.
Because the wood releases mineral oils, the Hinoki Sento Onsen Bath has additional anti-bacterial properties. The fact that the scent released is soothing is a lovely, calming bonus.
To replicate the natural onsens of Japan, the water is maintained at 42ºC and enriched with minerals using sophisticated ionisation technology that enhances absorption. There are five types of onsen baths to choose from, each offering a different type of bath salt for varying aromatherapies and health benefits.
Soaking in the mineral-infused water can help relief stress and anxiety, sooth aches and pains, promote blood circulation, and increase metabolic rates. When you are through, not only will your skin glow, you might find yourself sleeping better, too.
Source: Yunomori Onsen And Spa
Japan is well-known for its ability to marry old and new, and this spa, which spreads across 16,000 square feet complete with 11 therapy pools, has done it with great aplomb. Considered Southeast Asia’s number one onsen, you can pick from not one but eight different types of baths, many of them fusions of traditional onsens with modern technology.
Admittedly, not all the baths are Japanese. There is a Korean Bath and a Thai Ceramic Bath, even a Cold Bath. But they all embrace the spirit of Japanese onsens – the baths are communal and au naturel (no clothes needed or allowed). Even the showers are communal. If you are a little shy, the comfort is that unlike in Japan, the facilities are gender specific.
For the purist, the Hot Bath with water heated up to 43ºC and rich in minerals is the best choice. Relaxing and detoxifying, it is the perfect escape. A speciality of this spa is the Soda Bath, the first of its kind the region. The carbon dioxide-rich water is set to increase blood oxygen levels while reducing high blood pressure and improving skin elasticity. This is quite the Fountain of Youth. The Jet Bath combines the Jacuzzi with the onsen in an East-meets-West combo. Powerful jets of water are used to massage your entire body to relieve aches and pains while the oxygenated water stimulates blood circulation and improves metabolism. There is even a promise of weight loss while you relax. If you do not fancy being plummeted by water, the Silk Bath offers a gentler treatment with tiny bubbles that deep cleanses while they soothe. You will emerge with silky soft skin.
To complete your experience, get into a yukata and head for Yunomori Café for a drink. Drinking milk after a soak in an onsen became popular in Japan some 50 years ago. You can follow this practice with a drink to rehydrate or even a full meal. An impressive Japanese menu of soba, ramen, oden and kakigori awaits.
Source: ESPA & RWSentosa
Outdoor onsens afford a different experience. In Japan, the combination of hot water, cold air and gorgeous views makes outdoor onsens unbeatable. In Singapore, it is not an option many want to exercise because of the heat. But at ESPA, they have solved this problem magnificently.
The award-winning spa spans a luxurious 10,000 square metres. Within its expansive grounds is their outdoor onsen surrounded by chiselled rocks and nestled in lush greenery. This plays on the natural landscape of Sentosa where the spa is situation while leveraging the inherent ability of trees to bring the temperature down. The water, heated to 42ºC and full of minerals, is a balm to body and soul. The gurgle of the little waterfall that feeds this pool is an ideal soundtrack for this retreat.
Source: One Farrer Hotel & Booking.com
This hotel is another place you can enjoy an outdoor onsen. The gender-separated Onsen Gardens at their Spa Retreat is a collection of three pools. The mineral pool is heated to 38ºC and promises smoother, softer skin after a good soak. The plunge pool is an icy -14ºC, a temperature carefully calibrated to refresh. Rounding it off is the Jacuzzi lounge where you can have an invigorating soak.
The modern-looking onsen makes concessions for the modest. You can bring your own swimwear although there are complimentary bathrobes and towels.
Source: Elements Wellness
The onsen experience here is made for solitary contemplation. You get a private room within which is a wooden tub handcrafted from koyamaki (Japanese Umbrella Pine) wood complemented with hinoki wood bath accessories.
Koyamaki is a rare wood that is highly regarded in Japan. In fact, it is one of five sacred trees in Japan and can be seen in the Japanese imperial crest of Prince Hisahito of Akishino, second in line to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne after his father, Emperor Naruhito. The majestic tree has existed since prehistoric times and has served the Japanese well. Today, there are still imperial koyamaki baths in Japan.
Once within the water heated to between 38ºC and 42ºC, the lime scent of the koyamaki wood is unmistakable. The natural oils released by the wood have therapeutic properties and are antibacterial and antifungal as well. This enhances the healing effects of the onsen.
The water is no ordinary H2O. It has negative ions (an atom or molecule with more electrons than protons) that neutralise free radicals. This promises to energise, revitalise and reduce ageing. The ionised water and micro bubbles work can relieve rheumatic and arthritic pains, too. Oxygen in the micro bubbles cleanses the skin of even the smallest dirt particle, leaving it clean and moisturised. Meanwhile, the heat of the water promotes blood circulation and lymph movement.
Source: Le Méridien Singapore
This one is more than just a spa experience, it is a spa stay. The hotel has 19 Japanese-style Onsen Suites each with its own onsen pool. So, if a single afternoon soaking is not enough, book a room so your onsen experience can last and last.