Ashiyu are foot baths that are found in some of Japan’s hot spring town. They are beloved for their lighthearted atmosphere, as they are an easy way to enjoy Japan’s mineral-rich waters with little effort.
My last trip to Japan was in mid-spring. There was still a chill in the air, especially in the more remote areas that I ventured to. Toward the end of the trip, I began to feel under the weather. Though I wanted to get into the many nearby onsen (hot spring baths), I didn’t have the energy to undress and dress again. Ashiyu became a relaxing, healing alternative.
The mental and physical benefits are many and mimic those of a full-body bath. The mental benefits include stress reduction, instant relaxation, and rejuvenation. The physical benefits of ashiyu include a slower heartbeat, lower blood pressure, the remineralization of the body, detoxification, increased circulation, and the relief of pressure in the legs and feet.
One of the things that I love most about ashiyu is that most of them are scattered about hot spring towns, allowing people to use them at their leisure. Often you will see a group of strangers lingering with their feet submerged in hot water, their pants rolled up to their knees while they chat and laugh. The mood is fun and jovial. Soaking in an ashiyu is the perfect time to make plans for the day or talk about the local sites and food. Many ashiyu are free or charge a nominal entrance fee, so it’s fun to stop frequently, taking in the local scenery.
When visiting an onsen, women go to one side, while men go to the other. In ashiyu, everyone stays together. You will see many children taking part in ashiyu, too.
Something to note – Ashiyu are often much more relaxed with their rules. Many foreigners are shocked to find that most onsen do not allow bathers with tattoos. Ashiyu tend to be an alternative for those who would not be allowed to bath in a bath house.
Ashiyu are just another wonderful facet of Japanese bathing culture that I tucked into my heart and took home with me. To me, that's what travel is all about.