Cool Ocean, Hot Springs: Mizunashi Kaihin Onsen
Now this is a bath. As I relax, I even catch myself starting to hum. I am on the wild open-air hot spring frontier, just outside Hakodate: Mizunashi Kaihin Onsen, connected directly to the Pacific Ocean. Connoisseurs of little-known onsen flock here from across Japan and beyond to take the waters.
With me is old man whose face is flushed from prolonged bathing—the very picture of a boiled octopus. The hot water that wells up by the shore here is heated by Mount Esan, a nearby active volcano. At high tide, the baths themselves are submerged and cannot be used—but when the tide is out completely, the spring water alone is too hot to enjoy. Getting the perfect blend of cool sea water and hot spring water depends entirely on the timing.
The spring’s location brings all sorts of possibilities to mind. What if an octopus wandered in at high tide but was trapped and eventually boiled when the tide went out again? Add some of the ma-kombu kelp that grows in the area plus a dash of soy sauce, and we could be in business . . .
Mizunashi Kaihin Onsen
Access: One hour by car from Hakodate Airport
(Originally published in Japanese.)