What’s it like to have a Sandbath?

So as I said in my last post I talked about my time in the watery bit of the onsen, now it’s time to get gritty – we’re talking sand, hot sand, specifically, being buried in it. Yes, I’m off for a sunaburo – aka a ‘sandbath’

Why it’s called a ‘sandbath’ is beyond me as you certainly don’t come out clean and there’s no opportunity for bubbles – also, unlike your normal bath, you’re not naked for this one (yes, there’s somewhere in this place where you don’t bare your bits to the general public). Instead, you’re handed a fetching pair of grey linen jim jams to don for the treatment. This is probably a good thing, if you’ve ever had a picnic on a beach and wondered how exactly sand always manages to get into a sandwich, you’ll know that sand is a pervasive substance. It’s not something you want to get in a big pile of sans clothing unless you have unlimited patience for eradicating small pieces of scratchy stuff from various bits of your anatomy.

the sandbath at Tokyo's Ooedo Onsen

It’s the beach Jim but not as we know it

Now, you’re off the sandroom. As you can see, it’s a no frills kind of establishment – step off the wooden walkway and in you’re in your sandy happy space. After the boiling hot sandballs of the Taizen bath I had here in the UK, this bit made me nervous. Getting into the Taizen had triggered a stream of expletives and I didn’t think that would go down very well in genteel Japan itself, but thankfully entering the sandbath it wasn’t anything to worry about, it’s not super hot, merely like walking on the a beach on a warm day. You lie on the towel, arms by your side and they wrap you up. Note: do not at this point think the word shroud, it will not help with the relaxation.

Then they bury you – it’s every child’s dream job. Shove a load of sand over someone who is lying still and paying for the privilege. Claustrophobic types don’t worry – even with a bit of a language barrier your ‘burier’ does ask you where you want to be covered up to (I kept my upper chest free) and also helps pinpoint any achy areas that need a  bit of extra sandy attention.

the sandbath at Tokyo's Ooedo Onsen

Sadly sandbathing does not eliminate double chins from photos

All you have to do now is lie there toasty warm for 15 minutes starting at the ceiling and really hoping your nose doesn’t itch or you’re going to be paying for near torture for the next 15 minutes. Note: do not at this point think about your noise itching. The mind has an uncanny ability to affect the body!

Escape itch trauma though and it’s lovely. The warmth totally relaxes your muscles and the weight of the sand creates a lovely relaxing pressure. You start to sweat, but it’s nowhere near as hot as the Taizen so you don’t feel faint and 15 minutes is easy to manage. Of course this does mean you’re not going to emerge from the sand any lighter/thinner so you can forget that if it’s your aim.  Unlike UK spas, they do leave you alone, checking on you only halfway through, but if you started to panic, all you need to do to escape is sit up the sand really isn’t that deep or tightly packed.

When you’re time is up, you roll out of the sand, give yourself a shake and head off for a shower chilled, but slightly gritty. If you’re a spa junkie, it’s a must do. And, as I said yesterday, at 1595 yen (which is under £15 according to today’s calculation) it’s cheap too.


I keep the posts about weird treatments on this blog, but if you want to see more travel strangeness, you might also like my travel blog Destination>Differentville which highlights quirky, quaint, fun or just plain bonkers things you might want to visit. Click the link above to check it out.

Hello...hello...is this thing on? Talk to me, it's lonely down here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox:

%d bloggers like this: