I'm writing from the 'tenoyu onsen' (see title) which is a very nice onsen, or Japanese public bath/spa, in Miyashita. For a reasonable 1600¥ (~£10) your given your towel, flannel, a toothbrush set and a razor and ushered into the spa area. Onsen can feel a little daunting to begin with, you're never exactly sure what the custom is (the signs are in Japanese Kanji and sometimes, if you're lucky, 'Engrish') but once you've been a couple of times, as we now have, it's blissful.

The first step is probably the weirdest for us; strip naked. Naturally men & women have separate spa sections but you take nothing into the baths but your birthday suit! You then squat on a tiny plastic stool (that's a very comfortable fit!) and shower very extensively. Full body soaping, using your flannel to scrub your back, your feet, between your toes - essentially the exfoliating wash your Mum always told you to have.

Having shampoo'd and conditioned your hair and rinsing every last soapy sud off, you're allowed to go to the baths. Last nights baths were quite a meager indoor affair - Tenoyu by comparison is the bath of the gods. 6 or 7 separate baths most able to hold about 5 people (thankfully, they've never been this busy with us), each filled by natural springwater heated by the magma flows near (ish) the surface because of Mt. Fuji. There are circular bathing pools so hot you can see the steam rising from them, small cooler ones to cool off in, flat ones with stone headrests to lie in and tiny tubs to cool completely in. The best bit? All of this is outside. They obviously use them in the rain too as there are hats on a rack next to the door, as well as the biggest pool being covered (with the coolest ornamental drainpipes I've ever seen). The only slight shame is that to protect privacy the walls of the pool area are just high enough that you can't see the valley below, but the mountaintops are still a sight to behold when you're in the tub! (though that phrase just doesn't do the experience justice!)

Of course that's not the end of it, you must scrub and shower just as much after you're done bathing, then once you're dry you can shave, brush your teeth and retire to the rest rooms, where I am now, to lie down on roll-out beds with bamboo pillows. It's blissful! At home, in line with my Dad's phrasing of a good start to any day, I'll hunt down a good "shit, shower and shave". They do that here, but as you can tell it's so much better! The razors come included, the showers are so advanced they probably brew tea for you if you find the right button and the toilets! Oh my lord, my psychotherapist mother will have a field day, but I may become (more than usually) obsessed with pooping while out here - ignore the 'Japanese style toilets' they're basically a hole in the ground, the newer, westernised and extremized ones are where it's at. Step one: open door. The toilet seat lid will lift itself (Out of cleanliness, rather than laziness I'm sure) while it waits for you to put on the toilet shoes. (did I not mention? Shoes stay off when you're in Japanese homes or some public places, they also always wear special toilet shoes forthe toilet. Awesome) once you've fully exorcised the demons you are resented with an array of buttons, most of which I've yet to try out of fear. Amongst them are controls for the bumhole spray, whole arse hosing, lady wash, talc, 'powerful deodorizer' a 'stop' button (took me a while to find that one first time around...) the controls for the seat and lid and the flush (two types!) All off this is wireless from the panel on the wall (oh the possibility for pranks) and the most ingenious thing is still to come! Once you've flushed the cistern refills via a tap that comes out of the top of the toilet, giving you a little sink to rinse your hands in. Genius! At first glance it may seem dirty, but think it through - the water is clean when you use it and doesn't need go be when it's used next, it's Eco-friendliness at it's best. Anyway, it's about time I woke JK up (he had a poor nights sleep, but still slept through the 'quake!) and we used the massage chairs...