Japan's Hot Springs: Ibusuki Onsen, Kagoshima Prefecture
Ibusuki Onsen 指宿温泉
Ibusuki Onsen is a group of hot springs situated about an hour by train 50km south from Kagoshima city on the eastern coast of Kyushu.
Ibusuki is a popular seaside onsen resort famous for its hot sand baths. Well-known hot springs in Ibusuki include Yajigayu Onsen, north of the station, Nigatsuden Onsen near Nigatsuden Station and Surigahama Onsen south east of Ibusuki Station.
For something a little different, have yourself buried in the hot sand for 10-15 minutes at one of Ibusuki's suna-mushi sand baths. You change into a yukata and are buried by the staff, who dig you out when you have had enough before you shower off all the sand and can relax in the regular onsen.
A towel is placed on your forehead to stop the sweat dropping in to your eyes and to keep the sand from going in them as the attendants shovel sand on you. Sand baths are an excellent all-body detox and are known to improve the circulation.
The waters at Ibusuki have a high sodium content and are thought to be a good cure for rheumatism, neuralgia, female disorders and digestive problems.
The main sand sauna is at Surigahama with great views of Kagoshima Bay, though the onsen resorts are spread along a 10km stretch of beach north and south of Ibusuki Station.
Accommodation in Ibusuki
There is little to do in Ibusuki besides relaxing in the onsen and sand baths. Most people stay at a ryokan to enjoy the sumptuous Japanese-style meals but if you have your own transport there is some beautiful countryside to explore.
Lake Ikeda is nearby to the west and it is also possible to visit Chiran and the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots and Chiran samurai district. Further south is the peak of the Kaimondake volcano - a beautiful, cone-shaped volcano rising to 924m and dubbed the "Fuji of Satsuma." Kaimondake last erupted in 885 and can be hiked in 4-5 hours.
The southern most point of the Satsuma Peninsula (satsuma hanto) is Cape Nagasakibana, which has a lighthouse and beautiful views of Kaimondake. Flower Park Kagoshima (Tel: 0993 35 3333; 9am-5pm; 600 yen) is also close by and is a flower theme park with over 400,000 plants from 2400 species of plants from Japan as well as species from tropical and sub-tropical countries. Healthy Land (Tel: 0993 27 6966; 10am-9pm; 600 yen) is a large public bath with rotemburo (outside baths) and sand baths, eastwards around the coast from Flower Park Kagoshima. There are superb ocean and sunset views all from sitting in a spacious, open air, hot tub.
There is an approximately hourly bus from Ibusuki to Kaimon Station on the JR Ibusuki-Makurazaki Line calling at Yamakawa Station, Flower Park Kagoshima, Healthy Land and Cape Nagasakibana.
Budget travelers may also enjoy the Yunosato Youth Hostel.
Access - Getting to Ibusuki
There are trains from Kagoshima Chuo Station to Ibusuki taking 50-70 minutes depending on the service from Kagoshima Chuo Station on the JR Ibusuki-Makurazaki Line. Buses to Ibusuki from Kagoshima take about 95 minutes. National Highway 226 follows the coast through the town.