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Soaking in a milky hot-spring bath

Cultural Quintessence

Japan In-depth

Kateigaho International Edition

Soaking in a milky hot-spring bath—alone or with company

Sharatei offers hot-spring communal bathhouses with separate indoor and open-air baths for both men and women, and a private open-air bath. The spring water is milky white and contains gypsum and hydrogen sulfide, said to be effective against neuralgia, rheumatism, stomachache, and gynecological disorders.

Warner said he prefers such milky white water with the smell of sulfur to clear water, since it is more in line with what he expected a hot spring to be like.

What about Birtles, who was trying a Japanese hot spring for the first time? Was he somewhat hesitant about the concept of a communal bath? "When I was a student, I shared the same bathtub with my teammates after football practice, so I had no problems with the communal bath at all. The hot spring is very refreshing. When it comes to Brits, women might care more than men about sharing a bath with others," he said.

Still, Sharatei has a private open-air bath that allows guests to enjoy total privacy if they wish. Both the communal bathhouses and the private bathhouse are available around the clock. While he was relaxing after his bath we asked Warner about his impressions of the inn.

"A typical room in a hotel usually has a desk and a telephone, which remind me of the work I have to do, so I cannot readily switch into a leisurely mood," he said.

"However, there is nothing that reminds me of my work at this kind of exclusive ryokan. All I do here is take a bath or read a book so I can feel completely relaxed. For those who engage in creative work, as I do, this kind of leisure time is absolutely necessary. By taking a rest and having fun, you will be able to enlarge your experience and increase your knowledge and creativity."

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