Taking a dip in an Onsen is more than simply soaking in a tub of hot water to clean ourselves; it’s also a conscious effort to relax the mind, revitalize the body, and realign the soul through a ritual of wellness that’s been a beloved practice in Japan for centuries.
These benefits are achieved by the balanced proportion between the natural minerals that are present in the water and stimulations to our senses.
These include the soothing hot water massaging our skin, the addition of aromatics and essential oils such as Yuzu oranges or Hiba cypress oil that envelops our bodies, and the relaxing views and sounds of nature. These elements all work together to form the Onsen experience that the Japanese love so much.
There are different kinds of Onsen in Japan. Some are based on the mineral content in the water; the unique addition in the water defines others. From Yuzu Onsen that you can find in winter, Apple Onsen in Hirakawa City, and the wine, tea, or even coffee-infused Onsen in Hakone, you don’t want to miss the pleasant experience of soaking in an Onsen.
In Japan, Onsen are classified by their mineral contents, where different mineral concentrations in the water determine the benefits of the Onsen. One type of Onsen that can be found is Sulfate Onsen or Ryusan Sen (硫酸塩泉). Now, what constitutes a Sulfate Onsen that makes it so beneficial for our health? To be classified as a Ryusan Sen, the water should contain 1000mg of dissolved calcium sulfate, sodium sulfate, or magnesium sulfate for each kilogram of water. These substances contained in the Ryusan Sen water also play different roles.
Calcium Sulfate Onsen is believed to be highly beneficial in healing wounds such as cuts and bruises as well as alleviating stroke. This water also helps to improve constipation, rheumatoid arthritis, arteriosclerosis, and hypertension conditions. Calcium Sulfate Onsen is also good for fighting skin diseases, so you can be even more beautiful while taking in what the water will do for your health.
Sodium Sulfate Onsen also offers many benefits, such as being effective in alleviating hypertension and arteriosclerosis. But it’s also quite common to drink the water of this Onsen, with the effects of activating peristaltic movement in our intestines and aiding bile secretion for a healthier gut.
Now, while Magnesium Sulfate Onsen is similar to the two aforementioned Onsen in terms of what it’ll do for your body, it lacks the funk of the other sulfate-rich Onsen. This clear, odorless water of Magnesium Sulfate Onsen might be a good choice for those who have a keen sense of smell to the sulfuric odor often associated with these Onsen.
Reflecting the Japanese’s reverence for nature and seasonality, it’s not surprising to see shifts in the elements present in an Onsen bath at a particular time of the year. One interesting element that’s often found during the winter solstice is the addition of Yuzu oranges into the hot water. Incorporating Yuzu into the bath infuses the water with a refreshing, zesty aroma while soothing muscle pain and healing rough skin.
In Japan, Yuzu can be found grown in various areas, although Kochi Prefecture on Shikoku Island accounts for the majority of the Yuzu production. Other prefectures, such as Tokushima, Iwate, Ehime, and Miyazaki, are also known for this bright yellow citrus. Some farmers in those areas have introduced sustainable farming methods for growing Yuzu and keeping zero-waste policies in their production processes. After being juiced, the peels and the waddings are extracted using steam for Yuzu oil. The leftover peels are reused as organic fertilizer for the future generations of Yuzu harvest.
Yuzu Essential Oil is often added into hot-water baths to replicate Yuzu Onsen’s pleasing aroma and goodness within the comfort of home, turning a regular bath time into a ritual bath to pamper your body and mind.
Another component that’s often added to a bath is Hiba Essential Oil, which is extracted using steam distillation from Hiba tree, a type of cypress tree native to the northern region of Japan, primarily the Aomori Prefecture. Aomori’s Hiba has been highly regarded in Japanese culture for centuries alongside Kiso Hinoki and Akita Sugi, forming the trio of Japan’s most prized woods.
While Hiba Essential Oil is very sought after as a material for buildings and shrines, its extraction method utilizes lumber scraps, sawdust, and thinned wood, ensuring that nothing is wasted. These materials used to be regarded as worthless. But today, they’re given a new life as an essential oil as a sign of respect and gratitude for nature’s bounty.
Adding Hiba as an essential oil into a hot bathtub relaxes the body and mind with its cedar-like aroma. This oil also aids in alleviating eczema and other skin conditions caused by inflammation and bacteria, thanks to its powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. With the pleasant scent and health-promoting qualities it brings to the table, introducing Hiba Essential Oil into your daily ritual can be just the thing to help you get a good night's rest.
Japanese people are aware of the importance of how everyday ritual affects us. Taking a bath is something that they do at the end of the day to wash away impurities and expel the day’s stress from their system, preparing them to be at their best tomorrow. Making a journey to soak in an Onsen at night, for example, is something that they hold in high regard, culminating in the deep studies and discoveries about Onsen and their impact on wellness. Shikohin understands that within a healthy body lies a healthy mind. And it’s reflected in their approach to turning your night into a moment of healing.
Inspired by Japan’s harmonious stance with nature and elevated with Western science, Shikohin brings the best of both worlds to you.
All of Shikohin’s products are carefully curated and created with sustainable materials sourced from select partners that strictly adhere to nature-forward production practices. From the Yuzu Essential Oil extraction process that makes use of everything in the fruit by recycling it into a fertilizer for the Yuzu trees, to Hiba Essential Oil that breathes new life to woods that are deemed a waste, Shikohin honors nature.