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Winter Solstice in Japan: Yuzu? Well... Not Really.

"Would you "yuzu" yuzu?" says the Japanese guy.   So it's not news that the Japanese enjoy their hot spring baths.  They enjoy them all year round, and then some almost like its a religious event.   The hot spring spa or "onsen" as it's called in Japanese is like partaking in the baptism of life itself.   The changing seasons compliment the bathing experience whether it be outdoors, indoor, or even in a mountain valley.  The scenery is endless.

December 22nd is the start of the winter solstice in Japan.  On this day bathers like adding yuzu, a type of citrus, to their bath water.  It's not uncommon for Japanese to add fruit to their hot water, even onsen powders, but never bubble bath agents!  

Yuzu baths are often enjoyed by young women, and very seldom by old-timers.   There's also different traditions in different prefectures as well, but I will only cover one.   The purpose of this post is to show you a correlation between differences in generation preferences.   The original fruit most enjoyed was the Pomelo.  You can read up a little more the fruit itself here.

When it comes to onsen the Japanese have truly mastered the art of geothermal dynamic architecture and have blended it so perfectly with the ancient concept of wabi-sabi.    Onsen is a cultural pastime here and each prefecture lends its own fixture to this elaborate chain of modernity and antiquity all blended in so surreptitiously, so as not to disrupt the continuity of tradition  nor to commit a culture faux paus against the ancestors.    Tokyoites have glamorized the use of the now ubiquitous yuzu and yes, we still love its juices especially in the  hot humid summer months in Japan.   I love yuzu.

Before yuzu was introduced to Japan,  old-timers in west Japan ( Hinagu Onsen) used to use pomelo in their bathwater, as with Japanese pumpkin, but not everyday of course.  In this short snippet below you can see these huge grapefruits called Banpeiyu float around with pumpkins.  The natural oils from the fruit skins mix in with the hot water to release aroma into the hot steamy air.    According to Japanese medical science this is supposed to be good for stress as well as other skin related illnesses.  

       ("In the video you see a man sitting in what's called a Toji-Furo ( Winter solstice  - bath) ")


 In North America the grapefruit has never been really that popular for eating; this is mainly because of its acidity.   Nevertheless,  even since ancient times the pomelo has been regarded as the forbidden fruit - seriously.  Some scholars even argue that pomelo was the actual fruit Eve bit into, and not the apple.   For centuries the pomelo has been called the forbidden fruit and has been used in citrus inspired cocktails.  There's even a legendary liqueur named after it.

Experiment a little in your own bathtub.  Feel the warming affects of forbidden pleasures.

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