Rooted deeply in Japan's geographic characteristic as a volcanic island, several prefectures in Japan are home to natural hot springs or onsens that attract visitors from all over the world. Isawa, Yamanashi is one such place located just to the north of Mt. Fuiji - Japan's iconic mountain that has recently been designated as a world heritage site by the UNESCO. The Isawa Onsen is a superb location to spend a few days relaxing in the countryside while bathing in hot springs that will take away all fatigue.
However, not everyone has the time to spend a few days in Isawa - perhaps if you are on a schedule touring around the area, or if you are simply visiting for a day. Don't worry: you will be able to get a taste of the onsen-relaxation for free just outside Isawa Onsen Station. This onsen, called Ashiyu (足湯), is no ordinary onsen you might find in other locations. Ashi (足) means feet, and yu (湯) means water - referring to the hot spring water, so Ashiyu literally means hot spring water for your feet. You may have guessed already, but this is an onsen not for a full-body bath, but a small one just to dip your feet in the warm, mineral rich water.
After a long day of walking around, or even hiking in the beautiful "Southern Alps" of Japan, a 10 or 20-minute dip in the warm water will not only be excellent for muscle relaxation, but will also replenish your skin with rich minerals that only the water of Isawa can provide. (To ensure a degree of cleanliness, the water contains an appropriate dose of chlorine. Also the 45-degree Celsius temperature ensures good hygienic conditions.) Even under the grueling summer sun, the Ashiyu is a perfect way to relax - even better in the cold winter when the water will warm not just your feet but also your entire body from the flow of blood.
Last but not least, a spirit of kindness and hospitality flow in the air of Ashiyu, for it is a public place where people talk with one another. So if you are on a one-day trip, or just making a brief stop in Isawa, make sure to stop by the Ashiyu in front of the station before you leave!