Feeling hot, hot, hot.
On the eastern side of the Shimabara peninsula sits Obama Onsen, home to some of the hottest spring waters and the longest foot bath in Japan. Looking out over Tachibana Bay, it’s also one of the most popular places in the area to catch a spectacular sunset.
Established in 713, Obama Onsen is fed by 30 springs that run as hot as 105°C, making steam a regular fixture around town. Its springs are reported to produce 15,000 tons of water daily. Soaking in these chloride-based waters is said to treat everything from rheumatism to neuralgia to stomach disorders.
Obama has a number of onsen and places to see, so make your way first to the Obama Hot Spring Tourism Office to get a better lay of the land. Located across the street from the bus terminal, the office provides a decent English list of hotels with onsen on site.
Additionally, the office has an interesting photo op with a very notable person. Standing in front of the office, one arm raised in a wave, you’ll find a Barack Obama mannequin.
While the US president has never been to the town, Obama Onsen has taken advantage of the name since his inauguration.
Not so keen on going au naturel in an onsen with strangers? Several hotels in the area offer both public and private baths, but reservations are recommended for the latter. Or, you can get your feet wet first, literally. Try out Japan’s longest foot bath in the Obama Marine Park. Called Hot Foot 105, the foot bath is named for being 105 meters in length. Even pets can get in on the action, with the last 5 meters reserved for them. Just don’t forget to bring a towel to dry off.
Make sure you try some of the local dishes while you’re in the area. For the thrifty, you can simply steam some eggs and vegetables next to the Hot Foot 105. Obama also has its own version of champon, a Nagasaki signature dish mixing Japanese and Chinese elements, offered at over 20 restaurants.
If you have time, head up to Unzen Onsen. Offering sulfuric-based onsen, it’s a mere 25-minute drive up the mountains.