By David Applebaum
Black As The Pit From Pole to Pole
You’ve heard of black soap? It’s all the rage among people who care about their skin… It’s also really expensive, but to each their own. I care about my skin, and that is why I go to onsens. Actually, that is a total lie. I go to onsens because I love the feeling of relaxing in hot springs. It is as close as I will ever get to meditation. Today, we are visiting an onsen with black water. In fact, this particular onsen has the blackest water in all Japan. That has to be worth something!
The onsen we are visiting today is called Tohoku Onsen (東北温泉)(https://aomorimori.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/black-hot-spring-in-tohoku-town/). Now, I must first apologize to all the west-coast Aomoriites. This column fully intends to cover the whole of Aomori, but it is a big place and a guy can only soak for so long. Sometimes you have to get out of the water, dry off and do those things you are supposedly supposed to be doing to get paid. I have often wondered what would happen to someone who onsen’d too much, or is that even possible? This is Japan, the country with the longest longevity in the world and more centenarians than anywhere else. There has to be a tie-in to the fact that there are onsens everywhere and the old folks go to the onsen on a regular basis. In any case, I will be exploring other onsens at some point.
The onsen building itself is nothing really special. It is just a big ol’ rectangular building. I think that onsens should look like onsens from the outside. I mean, I want the full experience. I want to walk into a building knowing that I am going to an onsen. This particular building doesn’t do anything for me.
Inside, there are the usual array of baths, all black water of course. There is a nice sauna too. The outside bath though is quite nice really. You may be thinking that with summer fast approaching, why would you want to soak in a piping hot bath when it is quite hot outside. This bath is for you then. The bath is not piping hot, but rather tepid ( ぬるい). The bath I am referring to is on the men’s side. The women’s side doesn’t have as beautiful a setting, and it is covered with a roof. The men’s bath, while set in a beautiful garden, is really quite small. When I first went to it, there were 3 guys already in it. When I joined them, I felt like I was joining the butcher, the baker and the candlestick-maker, but not the version where they pretend to go to the fair, and instead they peek at the maids in the tub.
Overall, if you happen to be near there, I would say go for it- it is a nice onsen, and definitely functional, but not mind-blowing or anything to write home about. The good news is that this onsen is only about 15 minutes’ drive from Namiki Gelato, previously referenced in another column. If you haven’t been there yet, you should definitely go… it will change your life.
Until we soak again…
Tohoku Onsen website– currently in only Japanese (the site was blocked on my work computer, so I hope it works)
21-18 Kamisasabashi, Tohoku-machi kamikita-gun
Directions to Tohoku Onsen–
There is a hotel/ryokan there as well, here is some information about it-