Monday, December 21, 2009


Ah yes....Rotenburo.

I guess I've been here too long.
There is something about a Rotenburo, the Japanese outdoor hot springs, that says "JAPAN" like few other things can.

Even more, to enjoy one in the midst of a snowstorm is probably the defining moment for any old-school Japanese man - it contains the essence of Japan's warrior spirit. It embodies the Japanese sense of "perfection". I was so lucky to enjoy rotenburo in a snowstorm during my recent visit to Niseko, Hokkaido. I feel blessed.
It is only the second time in more than 15 years here that I was lucky enough to have that.

Rotenburo abound in Japan, since it is a particularly volcanic set of islands, and rotenburo, like all real onsen (Japanese hot springs) are naturally heated with geothermal energy. The waters often contain rich blends of minerals and salts and have been reported to have amazing healing properties and health benefits for literally thousands of years. Onsen and especially rotenburo were one of the many things I missed about Japan while I was in Singapore.

Now, that said, the snowstorm rotenburo is a magic thing far beyond any other.
The waters are usually 42 - 44 degrees Celsius, and initially you feel like you are being boiled alive, but at the same time, submerged to your neck, the freezing snow is falling on you. You achieve balance. Once you are in, you do not want to get back out.

The rotenburo and snow together, in a Shinto sense, strike a harmonic balance between hot and cold, between calm and chaos, between ourselves and Nature. We are made aware of our place as a small part of all which is under Heaven, and forever subject to its laws.

The snow falling on the water is, in its primal Buddhist way, a perfect reminder of the fleeting impermanence of our own lives. Each of us is like that snowflake, falling through time only to disappear back into the hot water. We will evaporate and become snowflakes again in an endless cycle (or "recycle" if you prefer). Each one of us unique, cascading in an endless shower through the storm of our lives, surrounded by other snowflakes just like us...

But I digress... suffice to say, rotenburo was the welcome home my weary soul needed. Rotenburo in a snowstorm was destiny's way of telling me Japan is where I belong.

If you have never experienced a rotenburo - you need to get that sorted out at the soonest possible opportunity. If you have never experienced rotenburo in a snowstorm - that is what will reawaken your warrior spirit - I hope it happens for you!

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