For the 50+ Traveler

Suna-mushi is the Japanese word for sand bathing. No, not sunbathing, sand bathing.

At Ibusuki Beach in southern Japan, you can sink into an indulgent sand bath. Your soak in the sand will let your mind unwind and relax, all the while restoring your body in a very unique way.

To experience a toasty black sand bath for yourself, read on! We have tips on what to expect and how to get there!

Ibusuki Beach in Japan.

Where Is Ibusuki Beach?

The beach is on Kyushu Island in southern Japan. It’s south of Kagoshima and east of Makurazaki. The area is known for volcanic activity -- the sand is actually heated by the volcanic activity underground, and you can thank the nearby volcanoes for the high concentration of minerals in the sand!

Not far from the beach, Kaimondake, a massive volcano, stands tall. The volcano is nicknamed Mount Fuji of Satsuma because Kaimondake’s cone shape is nearly identical to Mount Fuji’s.

Ibusuki Beach in Japan.

The Healing Properties Of The Sand

Locals and tourists have flocked to Ibusuki Beach for centuries in hopes of curing a slew of health issues: asthma, diabetes, infertility, anemia, obesity, back pain, menstrual disorders, and much more. For other people, sand bathing is approached as a beauty treatment or skin care regimen.

Though there isn’t proof the sand has cured chronic pain or other chronic health issues, a study conducted by a team at Kagoshima University discovered breathing in the steam at the beach “increased cardiac output and improved blood circulation by a factor three to four times greater than the steam generated by average hot springs.” Their findings prove that, at the very least, sand bathing improves blood flow!

Two photos from Healthy Land Tamatebako spa.

The Process

Two of Ibusuki Beach’s sand bath spas are especially popular. For about $10, you will be granted access to a private beach, hot springs, and steam rooms at Sand Bath Hall Saraku. If you want a more picturesque sandy getaway, Healthy Land Tamatebako has a secluded beach and stunning views of Kaimondake. There are a few other popular resorts at Ibusuki Beach, too!

Wherever you choose to go, once you get there, you’ll be in good hands. To begin the process, you will be given a yukata to change into. This is like a robe in appearance, but the material is thin enough to allow the sand’s steam to reach your skin. After putting on your yukata, you’ll pick a spot on the beach and an attendant with a shovel will arrive, give you a towel to protect your neck, and bury you to your chin in the 120-degree sand.

You’ll rest for about 10 to 20 minutes. According to CNN, this period of time allows your body to absorb the geothermal steam and sweat enough to expel toxins from your body.

From there, you’ll rinse off and complete the last part of the ritual -- soaking in one of the area’s hot spring pools.

Ibusuki Beach in Japan.

How To Get There

You’ll likely fly into Fukuoka -- the northernmost airport on Kyushu Island -- or Kumamoto, which is in the center of the island. From the airport, you can drive or take a train south. If you’re taking a train, you’ll go to Kagoshima Chuo Station, and you can reach Ibusuki directly from there.

Humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy the hot spring culture in Japan. In fact, if you head northeast to Nagano, you’ll see red-faced fluffy monkeys called macaques who love to kick back and relax in the hot springs. If you want to witness their spa days, we have the scoop on how to visit the spa-loving snow monkeys.