A love letter to the hot springs of music festivals

There are certain things you accept about going to a music festival: you probably won’t sleep well; you will spend too much money; you will get dirty Dirt itself is part of the festival look: unshowered hair and sweat, bodies gilded by a layer of dirt. Fortunately, this is less true of festival life in Japan, where the natural hot springs make things much better and actually add an unexpectedly nice dimension to the party culture.

I’m not a hardcore raver or festival goer by any means. At Balance, a scaled-down version of a well-known electronic music event in Gunma Prefecture in the fall of 2021, I felt out of my element, but very much in the elements. Relatively new to Tokyo, I had decided on a whim to travel to the festival with three new acquaintances, and as I lay on my back in my tent, sleep-deprived, overstimulated and quite hungover, I wondered if I had done the right thing. choice I hadn’t been to any kind of live music event in almost two years, and the cold and anxiety were settling into my joints.

I ventured outside my tent and saw a short line outside a booth marked “coin showers”. Seeing people holding their toiletries and towels, I shuddered at the thought of paying for a 30 second blast of cold water. It was then that I was informed that some of the people my group had met were leaving for the onsen (thermal waters).

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