Get Buried and Beautiful at Ibusuki’s Sunamushi Sand Onsen (Hot Spring)

Review of 指宿フェニックスホテル | 鹿児島県指宿市十二町大渡4320
  • Trip101 Review
Onsen Sommelier Musashi
Updated Sep 23, 2015

Located in Kagoshima Prefecture, Ibusuki City is famous for its Sunamushi Onsen, and many Japanese people have at least seen pictures or video of it. Sand is heated by hot water, and people get buried into the sand for healing, a practice dating back to the end of the Edo Period in Japan (1603-1868). I’ve written this article as a guide to using the spa, which has recently developed new treatments on top of the traditional ways of using these baths. Leave it to me, the master hot spring concierge, to provide you a useful guide to these treatments!

Get the Benefits of the Hot Sand Treatment as You’re Surrounded by Gorgeous Ibusuki Scenery


Famous for being the place where you can experience new treatment styles, the Ibusuki Phoenix Hotel is overflowing with tropical ambience. Built in 1971, this resort hotel receives many tourists from within Japan and overseas. They are drawn to the sand treatment, which uses sand heated by natural hot spring water and boasts positive effects to beauty and health.

Hot spring water arises naturally in Ibusuki, which lies along the coast in an environment rich with natural blessings. Nearby you can find beautiful Mount Kaimondake, also called Satsuma Fuji, and Ikedako Lake, which is also known as Caldera Lake. The famous hot spring water near Caldera is the result of volcanic activity. It has been boiling for thousands of years and is rich with essential minerals for beautiful skin such as sodium, silicic acid, iron, magnesium, and calcium.

Also, the seaside climate and baths of Ibusuki raise oxygen consumption, which is good for metabolism. The increase in blood flow is said to have a balancing effect on the autonomic nerves. Visitors can also expect a relief from stress related issues such as diabetes and back pain.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in ibusuki and also compare the prices with airbnbs in ibusuki

The Power of the Sunamushi Sand Onsen

During the hot sand bath, staff shovel 20-30kg of sand onto bathers. The sand, heavy and heated to roughly 55 degrees by the salty spring, will improve blood and lymph node circulation and is great for getting knots out of stiff muscles.

The hot salt water has three main functions. The first is an improvement in heat retention. You can expect this to lead to metabolic improvements. The second is muscle relaxation. This will make it easier for joints to move, relieving knee, lower back, and shoulder pain. The third is activation of the autonomic nerves. This will help your body to regulate its temperature, which is good news for people who become cold easily after bathing.

In the sand onsen you’ll be lying down, which means that blood will flow easily to your heart, and the weight of the sand will help it pump blood back out. Due to the improvements in circulation and resulting increased oxygen supply, your body will be able to rid itself of waste through sweat. Positive results can also be expected in the kidneys and liver from the pressure of the sand and resulting lymphatic improvements.

The seaside climate, pressure from sand, effects from heat, and medicinal effects of minerals combine to heal the body and align its functions. It’s no exaggeration to say that given all of the factors above, the sunamushi hot sand onsen at Ibusuki will improve the body’s natural healing ability.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in ibusuki and also compare the prices with airbnbs in ibusuki

Try the New Treatment

With it’s splendid hot springs and climate, the sunamushi hot sand onsen has inherited over 300 years of bathing techniques and traditions. However, they’ve recently been thinking of ways to revitalize it and make it even better.

The “Kaisui Pakku” (meaning sea water facial treatment), which I’ll be telling you about today, is one of the new treatments they’ve come up with. In the regular sand treatment, your entire body is covered by sand that has been heated by sea water, but your face remains exposed. Guests often sweat through their face as well, but because they’re buried, they can’t move to wipe the sweat away. It may be great for the body, but it that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s comfortable.

That’s why they come up with the sea water facial treatment. It relieves the discomfort by absorbing sweat and other waste products that are released through the face. The treatment lasts about 10 to 15 minutes, about the same time as a hot sand bath. It’s the ultimate thalassotherapy treatment – the perfect way to get a detox bath and facial treatment at the same time.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in ibusuki and also compare the prices with airbnbs in ibusuki

Improve Your Skin with Thalassotherapy

When the facial treatment is applied to your face it will harden quickly, preventing your face from openly sweating. The pores on your face will open due to the increased blood flow from the hot sand on your body. When this happens, the sea water treatment will be there to catch any dirt. The rich minerals will leave your skin beautiful.

Minerals are said to be essential for creating beautiful skin. By increasing metabolism, they encourage the body to replace old skin with new. They also protect the skin with an anti-oxidizing effect and assist in the creation of collagen and proteins, making the sea water facial treatment very effective at providing skin with plenty of nutrients.

It’s the perfect final touch to the already powerful thalassotherapy treatment of salty sea wind blowing over the seaside bath, the heat and weight of the sand, and spring water benefits. You’ll finish the treatment knowing that your skin is soft and smooth.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in ibusuki and also compare the prices with airbnbs in ibusuki

Makeup Holds Better! Fantastic Skin-Smoothing Results

Women often rave about how much better makeup holds up after the bath. As a guy I have no experience in that area, but the unanimity of this opinion leaves little room for doubt. Tons of women claim that their skin after the bath is completely different than before they went in.

Sunamushi hot sand onsen is a truly unique spa experience, made even better by the “Kaisui Pakku” facial treatment. The medical benefits of the hot sand were relied upon by local people long ago in the absence of modern medicine. The traditional treatments of the Ibusuki hot springs will likely continue to grow in popularity as they improve and evolve.

Name: Ibusuki Onsen Venue: Ibusuki Phoenix Hotel Address: 4320 Jūnichō, Ibusuki-shi, Kagoshima-ken, Japan TEL: 0993-23-4111 Hot Spring Contents: Chloride – salt water Effective Against: Cuts, burns, chronic skin problems, feminine issues Price: 1,600JPY (Sand bath plus sea water facial treatment) 1,000JPY - bath only

See our full list of recommended Hotels in ibusuki and also compare the prices with airbnbs in ibusuki

Sunamushi Sand Onsen and Sea Water Facial -- A Great Spa Experience

Sunamushi is also popular with men, and couples and friends often choose to visit the spa together. Men in Japan’s Kyushu region have a reputation for being tough, and even I admittedly don’t understand everything about skincare, but I’m sure it’s something that both sexes can appreciate.

The results from the sea water facial treatment and sand bath are pretty obvious. After the bath your skin feels great, which is why I recommend this spa to men and women of all ages.

This article was originally published on Sep 23, 2015

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