Lonely Planet Writer

Soak in sake? The Japanese spa tradition is proving a hit with travellers

Travellers in Japan who have enjoyed tasting the sake on offer across the country, are  enjoying the novelty of bathing in it.  

Sake Bath at Kowakien Yunessun - a hot springs spa resort and water amusement park located in the scenic surroundings of Hakone.
Sake Bath at Kowakien Yunessun – a hot springs spa resort and water amusement park located in the scenic surroundings of Hakone. Image by John S. Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images

A group of 18 ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) in Niigata Prefecture have been offering sake baths to their guests, including in Takanosu Onsen, Yahiko Onsen and Unohama Onsen. On the 26th of each month – the dedicated ‘bathing day’ – baths at a number of ryokan are infused with sake and other sake-based treatments are offered. 

Sake
Amino acids in sake are good for softening the skin.   Image by Getty

The benefits of sake – other than as a drink – have long been extolled, and the by-products of making it have been used as ingredients in various beauty products. It is thought that amino acids in sake are good for moisturising, softening and brightening the skin.

Sake has long been used in various beauty products.
Sake has long been used in various beauty products. Image by BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Niigata Prefecture is one of Japan’s top sake-producing regions, thanks largely to the long, cold winters providing abundant fresh snow melt for the rice-growing areas. In March, Niigata city hosts a mammoth sake festival highlighting more than 90 varieties of sake from around the prefecture.

The ryokan of Niigata are not the only places in Japan visitors can dunk themselves in beverages. Near the onsen town of Hakone, Yunessun is a ‘spa theme park’ where you can bathe in red wine, green tea, coffee and – of course – sake.