February 22

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Time For Your Sand Bath

Forget the bubbles and the aromatherapy oil – there’s nothing like a nice hot sand bath to put you back in fighting form! Like the sign says, “It feels really great when the heat penetrates to every corner of your body and you sweat a lot.” Southern Kyushu is famous for sunaburo, where hot springs seep up into beach sand and heat it to sauna-like sweatitude, but apparently there are also a lot of these tucked into Tokyo neighborhoods.

To take a sand bath, you put on a cotton yukata and lie down in the grave-like hole two burly guys have thoughtfully dug for you. Try not to think of being buried alive as they shovel the sand back onto every part of you but your head. Now you resemble a narrow pitcher’s mound. Let the sweating begin! They come back to dig you out after 10-15 minutes, which is plenty of time to turn you into a piece of overcooked vermicelli.

This sunaburo is at a public bath on Koshinzuka Street in Sugamo. If you’d like to visit Koshinzuka Street the next time you’re in Tokyo, directions are on my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had.

Jonelle Patrick is the author of the Only In Tokyo mystery seriespublished by Penguin/Intermix.

Published by Penguin/Intermix