Springs Eternal

In rural Japan, stressed workers and tourists seek geothermal ease

With their reputed healing powers, Japan's onsen, or volcanic hot springs, have attracted the weary since the days of the samurai (Peter Blakely/Redux)
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"California," I replied.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, turning to his two companions for a quick conference in rapid-fire Japanese. He turned back to me, his smile even bigger. "California! Mamas and Papas!"

I blinked. Then it clicked. Yes! "California Dreamin'"! "That's right!" I said. Cultural connection established (thanks, Mama Cass, wherever you are), we all laughed and talked a bit more in a mixture of English and hand motions. Under the shadow of the tree-covered mountains, listening with one ear to the rushing stream below and with the other to the rush of Japanese, I could feel the water melting away barriers of language and culture. Naked and wet, I relaxed for the first time in days. Hadaka no tsukiai, indeed.

Berlin-based author Andrew Curry is a former editor at Smithsonian.
Photographer Peter Blakely, who lives in Japan, covers social, economic and political issues in Asia


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