November 26, 2008

As soon as the weather gets chilly, most people in Japan turn to thoughts of yu (湯, hot water). The saying “yu ga ichiban no kusuri” “hot water is the best medicine is a popular maxim in Japan where hot springs have warmed people for centuries. Many people in rural areas remember the slogan “nihonjin niwa ofuroga aru” which translates to “when all else fails the Japanese will still have their baths”. For hundreds of years and way into the 20th century, rural Japanese never got a lot to eat, but in the darkest times a soak was always possible. To this day, in many reigons people will say “itadakimasu” (the salutary phrase that precedes a meal-like Julia Child saying “Bon Appetit” before a meal) before taking a bath, especially when they’re about to do so in the home of a friend or relative. As for immersing oneself in an onsen (温泉, hot spa), many perceive it as a gochisō (ごちそう, repast) and will often say that a good onsen session is equivalent to a full meal.

There’s nothing like yu (hot water) to combat the blues and keep the body warm and supple. It’s a daily custom whose pleasure never dims with time. But after learning about yu and the concept of considering hot water bathing as a full meal, I’m adding weight loss to my thoughts about hot tubbing! Thinking of hot tubbing as the equivalent of a full meal is a great way to avoid calorie overload during the holidays. Soak before supper! I guarantee you’ll eat less. Happy Thanksgiving!


Pleasure is a serious business!