Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Art and hot springs

Ando Hiroshige's: View from 7 hot springs at Hakone

Well, that's an exceptional topic I hear you say. It's not really a topic at all, there's not much linkage between the two, certainly not here in Southeast Asia. Some hot springs though are adorned with temple structures and / or carvings, but it's much more culture rather than art.

I started thinking of this subject when I came across a number of beautiful photo's by Hillary Atiyeh which she made at Breitenbush hot springs, Oregon, U.S.A.. She describes herself as
"Photographer of nature, wildlife, travel, adventure, aerial, underwater, photojournalism, environmental and social advocacy and fine art prints".
The various combo's of photo's ("Work in progress **Hot Springs**") probably fall in the underwater bracket, but nature, adventure, travel could also apply.

I personally think they are very attractive and original, though then again water and people are quite common themes in art. So I thought that this must be recurring theme. However the subject seems quite unresearched.

Some of the examples found:
  • Frommers explains to us that soaking in hot springs there is an art in it self!
    'Nowhere is the experience of taking a bath so celebrated, ritualized and revered as in the cities and regional areas of Japan'.
    Especially when it comes to etiquette, a fact that us most westerners take for granted in everyday life. Even for Southeast Asians the rules may prove challenging, witness (or not yet as is the case!) the Bangkok Post advice dispensed in a blog entry end of this month. Then again some parts of the art are self-evident:
    'clean yourself before soaking!'
  • More on the same art:
    'Bathing in Japan really is something of an art, or has at least been elevated to the status of it. This brings us to the first and most important rule of bathing in Japan: no suds in the tub — ever'.
    Again not really art, but the blog ( does contain some nice black and white photo's.
  • Another art form is the Japanese art of manga, alas here it's mostly female oriented, the hot springs providing an opportunity to undress the subject.
    'Obligatory Onsen (hot springs) Story': I usually call this the 'Obligitory Onsen Episode' because in anime there is almost ALWAYS an episode where the main characters head for a hot springs. But now I am noticing that this happens in shoujo manga a whole lot too. It usually happens in the form of a school trip, and involves the main hero and heroine of the story encountering each other unexpectedly in the bath, and having a few nice minutes of romantic/sexual tension ^_^;
    At least, they're sort of decent [1]
  • Again Japan, but not so hot springs, but nonetheless with some fringe connections. Paintings on sento (public bathing places) walls:
    'A vivid blue paint fills the huge wall of the Sento, the public bath house, and in no time, bold brush strokes with great momentum create an image of Mount Fuji and crashing waves… As a long-standing tradition, Japanese Sento users have enjoyed many of these panoramic views on the walls of their beloved hazy bath houses which are an integral part of Japanese life'.
There are quite a few artists impressions of hot springs:
  • Jimn Hill:
    Is this art? [2]
  • Beitou hot springs (Taiwan) has a museum, no less. Though this is more culture than art.
    'This museum is housed in public hot spring bath built during the Japanese colonial era. his is a good spot to learn about Beitou's rich hot spring culture and history'.
  • More culture? Huaqing, China:
    'Ranked among the Hundred Famous Gardens in China, it also has the status as a National Cultural Relic Protection Unit and a National Key Scenic Area.'
    Again more history. With some architecture.
  • An "Art" Spa hotel in Jilan, Taiwan. It has nothing to do with art though!
  • Radium hot springs, U.S.A., has an art show, but little connection between art and hot springs other than the physical location.
  • Literature?
  • Probably the most intriguing is the inovel by Steve Zio aptly titled Hot springs.
    'Hot springs are about indulging the senses and living in the moment. They’re about finding a deeper connection through warmth and relaxation. This connection differs from person to person, of course, and the Hot Springs website aspires to be whatever you want it to be. Whether you’re a reader of the book, have an interest in the Hot Springs art, music, and multimedia experience, or if you’re more inclined to pool your talents (by sending your own art, music, photos, links) with other online contributors on the Hot Spring theme, then please just dive right in.

    We’re made mostly of water, our lives our fluid, and we came from the seas. Through Hot Springs and hot springs, we can explore this liquid matrix and delve as deep as we want to go. And the best thing about plunging into.'
Keep soaking!:

This piece, detailing conversation from a recent trip to Cougar, has just been completed for the great French anthology, Stereoscomic. By Kalah Allen.

Update [June 2012]

'Where the the hot water comes from and where the water gets hot'.
Henry Yuen:
'"Hot tub all to ourselves"
11 x 14 inch Silkscreened Print
If you can get to Bagby Hot springs early, you may get the tub all to yourself. Then you can stretch out and catch up on a good book'.


  1. Hello, I love this site because I am addicted to hot springs. I have soaked in hot springs in Vietnam, the USA, Taiwan, Thailand, and Japan. I currently live in Japan and have visited approximately 500 different baths in Japan. Like you, I want to teach others about hot springs, so I have created a site called Please take a look. Thank you and happy soaking.

  2. Dear Greg,

    Thank you for sending your luv, we all need a healthy daily dosis of this!
    If you continue scrolling down the page you will see the feature Bloggers Soaking with a link to your good blog, which I avidly read.
    I may have even nicked a picture or two from y'r blog for the soaking spirit tumblr blog .... Check y'r incoming traffic ...


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