A uniquely Japanese experience: Trip to beachy volcanic sand baths!
Ibusuki is a quaint onsen town tucked away at the southern tip of the Satsuma Peninsula in the Kyushu region, making it a convenient day trip from Kagoshima City. One of the most interesting attractions here are the several facilities that offer “sand baths” dotted along the town’s seafront.
Sand bathing means you’ll experience being buried up to the neck in sand that is naturally heated by hot spring water underneath the beach. It’s intended to be relaxing, but it is also said to detoxify the body and refresh the skin. This makes it a popular beauty treatment with Japanese tourists, as well as a novel experience for foreign visitors.
How it works
Dressed in light yukata (lightweight cotton kimono), guests are invited to lie down on a secluded section of the beach. A small towel is wrapped around your head as a barrier between you and your pillow of sand, keeping your hair and face clean. Attentive staff members then proceed to cover you in the area’s distinctive hot, dark grey sand.
It might feel strange at first, but the weight of the sand is surprisingly comfortable and the heat radiating up from below is incredibly relaxing. Lying in your sand cocoon and listening to the gentle ocean waves lapping at the shore just beyond your feet, you can feel your body melting into the beach. Close your eyes and it’s easy to find yourself dozing off.
After the first five minutes, the attendants offer to pile more sand on top of you. This gives you the option to increase both the weight and the temperature if you feel up to it.
The recommended time limit for sand bathing is 10 to 20 minutes. Afterward, you take a shower to rinse off the sand and then head into the hot springs inside for a double dose of relaxation.
In the area
The sand baths are one draw to Ibusuki, but you can also enjoy souvenir shopping and visiting the Satsuma Denshokan Museum. Mount Kaimon is about half an hour away by train, so if you want to really earn your relaxation time you could always get in a few hours of hiking first. While you’re in the area, don’t forget to try one of these local dishes from Kagoshima.