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Nature's Spa Heals Both Body and Mind

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A hot pool of water is most inviting to spa visitors.
OUTSIDE NAGANO — It's a window to the world most of us will never see or dare to try. High up in the Japanese Alps, a small village has its own spa. And even when it's only 10 degrees outside and there is enough snow blowing to obscure the valley below, you can find peacefulness here.

First you have to shed your inhibitions. A regular patron of the spa says at first she was ashamed to be in the water with her parents, but now she finds it a wonderful experience.

There is also an indoor spa fed by the same natural hot spring. It's a much steamier experience. To cool off, you simply slide open one of the windows and let nature blow inside. It's something many consider very personal and very satisfying.

"I feel close to nature," says one spa-goer. "And if I have a beer here, it's very nice."

Most days, there are more men than women. Legend has it that a man, a samurai who first witnessed the warm water's healing powers. The samurai watched a wounded animal repeatedly bathe in the spring water and slowly heal. A samurai wounded in battle did the same. His gash and stab wounds healed. People now come from all over Japan for healing and relaxation.

This is something most people in Japan do. Some come to bathe every day in the natural spring water, clean and pure enough to drink. It's a natural experience in a totally natural way.

"You should try it," explains a spa worker. "At first, it's embarrassing, but then it is wonderful."


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