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JA Bath House Aroma

By: Stephen Carr

Date Posted: 2000-04-29

One of the standard de-stressing opportunities on the mainland is the onsen or hot spring, which come in all varieties and a perfect counterpoint to cool weather. Here in sub-tropical Okinawa there is less cool weather and only two hot springs baths.

One is the JA Bath House Aroma in Ginowan City, celebrating its three year birthday this month. It is built on land reclaimed from the sea and the hot spring was found by accident. The land was being prepared for construction of an old peoples’ day center when workers tapped into the underground geyser.

Its source is 1,300 meters below the earth’s surface and it pumps out 1,400 tonnes of hot water a day. The water carries a lot of mineral salts and is said to be beneficial for aches and pains. Bathing in it is also very relaxing and aficionados say it can act as a preventative cure – warding off illness before it happens.

Bath House Aroma gets 400 customers a day and is crowded on holidays. At weekends it is often necessary to wait in line to get in. During winter it is busier than in summer and in Golden Week is very popular. On Mothers’ Day (14th May) it is only open to females.

On entry and payment of ¥1500 for adults and ¥700 for children, bathers are presented with pajamas, two small towels, a razor, toothbrush and a key for a locker. Male and female facilities are separate and first stop for both is a high-tech scrub-down room. Pressurized shower nozzles and a variety of liquid soaps and shampoos allow customers to get clean on small stools facing mirrored walls.

Once clean there is a choice of indoor or outdoor bathing pools. Indoors is a small jet bath, a tranquil ‘sleeper’ bath, a large bubble bath and a waterfall bath. This last can be sampled sitting on a wooden bench while a stream of warm, salty water cascades from overhead. Pools are built with natural looking rocks and are fed via bamboo ducts. A scattering of greenery adds to the rustic impression.

There are two saunas, one with a liberal supply of salt to be smeared on the body to aid the perspiration process. There are cold water cleansing scoops in the sweat room and jets of cold water squirt out of the wall from all directions, on emerging. The other sauna has industrial sized heating elements set into its wall and a television set. There is also a cold bath whose icy waters are very refreshing after emerging, broiled lobster-like, from the saunas.

Outside the pool looks onto a traditional Japanese garden and rockery. There are trees, lots of bamboo, carved, inscribed stones and a wooden water-wheel. Bathers loll and ruminate in the soporific pools, enjoying the illusion of relaxing in some remote rural hillside spring.

For those with less bucolic tastes there is an indoor dry room with comfortable reclining chairs, newspapers and a television.

Aroma Bath House also has massage rooms adjoining the bathing area. An invigorating akasuri cleansing massage with a rough towel, costs ¥2000 for women and ¥2500 for men. A half hour oil massage is ¥3000, as is a 40 minute dry massage. An hour’s dry massage costs ¥4000.

Aroma also has a communal area where both sexes sit around in pajamas and bath robes. There are four massage chairs, costing ¥100 a session, a soft drinks machine and a restaurant serving noodles, curry, beer, soft drinks, ice creams, cakes and snacks. There is a lunch menu from 2 pm to 3 pm.

Directions: From Kadena Gate 1 go south on Hwy 58. Turn right towards Tropical Beach. At the light just before Ginowan Convention Center, turn right, go past Helios Pachinko and Tostem. Above a sign featuring black cats is the onsen (hot springs) symbol. Turn left. There is a Japanese garden in front of JA Aroma Bath House.

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