Stay warm and comfortable throughout your winter visit to Japan thanks to the old wisdom of healing the body through heat

Some scenic spots you may want to visit in winter

The big attraction of Japanese winters is the wealth of enchanting snowy vistas. Hills, gardens, shrines, temples and traditional houses leave a very different impression when enshrouded in pure white snow and they will regale you with superb views which can be admired only in winter.

Ruriko-ji Temple, located in Yamaguchi City (known as the “Kyoto of the West”), in Yamaguchi Prefecture, hosts a five-storied pagoda listed as one of Japan’s Top 3 Pagodas (the three most beautiful five-storied pagodas among those existing in Japan). Situated on the banks of the garden’s pond, this pagoda, when covered in snow, offers a beautiful sight amid the immaculately white trees.

Snow-covered Ruriko-ji Temple
Ruriko-ji Temple illuminated at night
The five-storied pagoda of Ruriko-ji Temple covered with snow (illuminated from sunset until 22:00 pm)

In Miyama, Nantan City, located almost in the center of the Kyoto region, there remains a large number of thatched houses (traditional Japanese houses with thatched roofs made out of cogon grass) immersed in a rich natural environment. When snow piles up on the roofs, it adds yet another layer of beauty to these houses, making this rural scenery very popular with visitors.

Traditional thatched-roof houses covered in snow.
The large roofs of traditional houses white with snow
Enchanting snow lanterns
“Snow lanterns,” lanterns sculpted out of snow inside which candles are lit, can be admired every year between the end of January and the beginning of February (in 2017 they will be lit from 28 /1 to 4/2)

The Kamakura Festival is held every year between the end of January and the beginning of March (in 2017 it will take place from 28/1 to 5 /3) in the hot-spring town of Yunishigawa Onsen in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture. Kamakura are miniature domes made carving out mounds of snow. In the course of this event you will be able to dine on local delicacies (reservation required) or run down the snowy hillsides on a sled. And at night you will be able to enjoy the magical spectacle of countless candle-lit kamakura lining up in the riverbed.

Yunishigawa Onsen: Kamakura Festival
Rows of candle-lit igloo-like structures (kamakura).

There’s nothing like soaking up in a hot spring in the cold season!

One experience which you will not want to miss is soaking up in a hot spring while admiring the superb views unique to Japanese winters. Contemplating snowy vistas while basking in the warmth of a hot spring is the height of luxury. You should keep in mind that, while bathing in water at a temperature of 42°C (108°F) has an awaking effect since it stimulates and excites the nervous system, bathing in water at a temperature of between 36 and 40°C (97 to 104°F) has a very relaxing effect. The temperature which the majority of Japanese, hot-spring lovers par excellence, find most suitable is 42°C (108°F).

Nyuto Onsen-kyo Hot Spring Village in Semboku City, Akita Prefecture, an area of heavy snowfall, is very popular for its hot springs and outdoor baths which are completely encircled by snow in winter. There are seven hot spring inns, each one with its own spring, and it is thus possible to experience different types of hot spring water. By purchasing the “Hot Spring Tour Booklet (1,800 yen),” on sale at each inn, you will be able to visit all seven hot springs.

Yunishigawa Onsen: Kamakura Festival
The mixed outdoor bath (men and women bathe in the same tub) at the long-established Tsurunoyu Onsen Hot Spring inn. A separate women-only outdoor bath is also available

Humans are not the only ones who treasure basking in the warmth of hot springs. The Jigokudani Yaen-koen park in northern Nagano Prefecture, called home by a herd of Japanese macaques, is renown as a place where to view monkeys relaxing in hot springs in the middle of winter. A habit they have mastered in order to stave off the severe, below-freezing, cold.

Japanese macaques (snow monkeys) bathing in hot springs
Warming up one’s body is equally pleasant to humans and to monkeys
Improving overall health with a hot-spring bath.
In Japan, heating up one’s body has been known since ancient times to be good for one’s health. This is not true only of hot-spring bathing, applying hot towels and onjaku (heated stones wrapped in cloth) to one’s body is also known to have beneficial effects.
A footbath to revive those cold feet
Feet, due to their distance from the heart, tend to get cold easily. Footbaths are very effective for stimulating blood circulation and relieving swelling.
Relieving fatigue with onjaku
Onjaku are warm stones which are heated and then applied to different parts of the body in order to relieve fatigue and improve blood circulation. The custom of wearing hot stones wrapped in cloth under one’s clothes to warm chest and belly is said to have originated in Japan.

As the body’s temperature decreases, blood flows less easily, causing the onset of various symptoms like neck and back pain, eye fatigue, reduced organ function, menstrual irregularities and more. Conversely, when the body is warm, blood vessels expand and metabolism improves, which in turn facilitates the elimination of unwanted substances in the body. As blood circulation improves, many beneficial effects can be felt. This is exactly the kind of research that KIRIBAI has been carrying out for many years.

Kairo heat packs, winter tourists’ best friends

Hot-spring bathing and onjaku are not only effective in keeping you warm, they are also beneficial to health and beauty. A more practical way of enjoying these same benefits consists in using disposable kairo heat packs. KIRIBAI, which boasts the top share in the Japanese kairo market, after conducting repeated studies showing that heating the body “doesn’t just keep you warm but also contributes to better health,” has developed a vast array of products that take advantage of the therapeutic properties of heat. By building on the Japanese tradition of “warming up the body,” KIRIBAI currently holds the first place in the domestic market for kairo sales. Moreover, it has responded to the growing overseas demand for kairo by introducing the “Danbobo” kairo on the Chinese market through Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, an affiliated company.

Clothes-attachable type KIRIBAI-haru

The “KIRIBAI-haru” clothes-attachable-type warmer is ideal for fighting off the cold by keeping the waist and the back warm. Its effects are timed to last 14 hours so as to cover the daily cycle of human activities.

Kairo generate warmth by harnessing the heat generated when iron powder reacts with the oxygen in the air. In addition to iron powder, a blend of substances like water, salts, humectants, activated charcoal and more are used as heat-generating elements, and temperature and duration can be regulated by how these materials are blended together. “Kairo blenders” a category of professional engineers exclusive to KIRIBAI, combine these substances by hand every day so as to ensure uniformity of product quality. Surprisingly enough, success is determined by a masterful sensitivity of hand and eye. It’s delicate technology like this that ensures made-in-Japan quality.

Working environment of kairo blenders.
Iron powder contained in kairo (left) and a kairo blender busy blending materials (right)
Head of the Research and Development department discussing KIRIBAI's technology
“Sensitivity of hand and eye is extremely important when blending,” says Mr. Sonoda, head of Research and Development

The duration at stable temperature of the non-attachable type kairo is a whopping 24 hours from the moment it has been opened. What guarantees such performance are unique technical capabilities and a constant commitment to quality. “This is the greatness of the KIRIBAI brand,” proudly says the head of Research and Development department.

In the footsteps of a long tradition of healing through heat

KIRIBAI, on the strength of its infrastructure for developing kairo technology, has conducted studies into the heat therapies of old, developing a vast range of products and delivering health and healing under the “Science of temperature” slogan.

Waist pain and knee pain are quick to develop in cold temperatures. Supplying heat at the same temperature as that of a warm hot-spring bath, approximately 38 to 42°C (100-108°F), is effective in relieving them; however, efficacy varies depending on the amount of muscle in the different regions of the body. This is where the “Blood Flow Improvement” series comes in, optimizing efficacy by regulating temperature so that it is higher on shoulders and hips, which have more muscles, and lower on knees and neck, which have less.

Optimal temperature and products for improving blood flow in each body region
KIRIBAI, in the course of its in-house research, has discovered that the optimal temperatures for improving blood circulation, when kairos are attached to clothes, are about 44°C (111°F) for the neck, about 52°C (126°F) for the shoulders, about 48°C (118°F) for the waist and about 42°C (108°F) for the knee.
Body-attachable Ammeltz heat pack

Japanese wisdom also extends to efficiently warming up the body through the use of natural materials. In ancient Japan it was customary to warm up the body by applying a paste made with steamed red beans, which is also used in “Azuki no Chikara.” This product utilizes the properties of red beans, which contain high amounts of water, so that, when heated in a microwave oven, the water turns into a natural steam which gently warms up eyes and shoulders. Its moderate weight allows it to comfortably adjust to the neck-shoulder region and to the eyes.

Ammeltz heat pack to attach to the body
It heals the mind by heating the body with the warmth of steam. Since it utilizes the moisture present in the air, it can be used about 250 times.

The Japanese tradition of healing through heat does not simply keep one warm, it also contributes to preserving one’s health. And who wouldn’t be pleased to receive one a souvenir from Japan? Won’t you too resort to the old wisdom of Japan to make your winter travels more comfortable?