Tsurunoyu, Japan

A time for rituals

In Japanese, onsen means “hot spring". It is the name given to thermal baths, regarded as poetic, ritual and sacred places. In the province of Akita, the beauty of the onsen emanates from the presence of unspoilt yet well mastered natural elements – water, steam and the environment – that never undermine the humble, pared-down simplicity of the establishment. This is a place where no one is entitled to immerse themselves in these hot springs bursting forth from the earth without following a specific ritual paying tribute to the serenity of purification.

Steve McCurry: “This was one of the most inspirational locations on my photographic journey. When we arrived there, it had been snowing for three days. Everything was shrouded in a mantle of white, as if in a dream. It was truly fascinating to witness this magical contrast between the coldness of the snow and the warmth of the baths."

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Published 9th May 2016