Culture Capital treated to Japanese sauna therapy

Celebrating as one of Europe’s Capitals of Culture this year, Riga welcomed the onset of ‘Onsen’, the traditional Japanese hot spring ritual Tuesday at the Esplanade park.

Everyone is invited to take a dip starting Tuesday afternoon with the opening of the hot springs attraction at 16:00 hours. Lasting every day until October 12 from 16:00 until 22:00, the interactive environmental installation ‘Onsen’ is free-of-charge to all, but requires one to make an online reservation for the time of their visit. Also, bathers curious to try a dip into the Japanese hot spring should remember to bring their own towels and suits.

A small wooden house will be erected to contain the temporary artificial urban hot spring so that anyone who wishes can have the chance to enjoy the hot bath amidst Riga’s chilly autumn weather.  The ‘Onsen’ installation will be set up in one of the Esplanade fountains, in which a wood-burning heating stove will keep the pool waters at pleasantly steaming temperatures for the human body, moreover enriched with an assortment of traditional Japanese mineral bathing salts.  

The Capital of Culture event was organized by the EU-Japan festival committee to let residents of Latvia get acquainted with Japanese culture and history. The installation was created jointly by Japanese artist Hayashi Yasuhiko and Latvian artist Aigars Bikše.

Going to ‘Onsen’, the Japanese public bathing ritual, is an ancient tradition that remains popular as ever. Introducing the tradition to Latvians, who have their own sauna-going preferences, habits and rituals should not be difficult, as the ‘Onsen’ website suggests that taking the plunge “increases your metabolic rate and maintains your autonomic nervous system… also known by its ability to relieve stress and mental fatigue.”

The interactive website where one can learn more about ‘Onsen’ and make reservations to soak in the faux hot spring is available in both Latvian and English at onsenriga.lv.

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