It’s winter solstice! Depending on your point of view, this is either the middle of winter or the start of it. In any case, today (actually, late last night), the sun has reached her southernmost point of voyage and will now move northward again, eventually bringing with it: spring… However, this will still take quite a while, before that it will get really seriously cold in the northern hemisphere; not something to look forward to for a heat loving person like me living in central heating deprived Japan…

Anyway, that’s exactly why the Japanese have invented heated toilet seats and hot spring baths. I have written about onsen and sento before, but winter solstice is a very special day there: it’s the day of the yuzuyu, literally the hot yuzu water.

Picture of a yuzuThe what? The yuzu is a citrus fruit with yellow skin, about the size of an orange, but with a taste similar to grapefruit. They have a very aromatic smell, and although rarely eaten raw, they are used to make tea or jelly for example.

On winter solstice, the usually pristine bath tubs of onsen contain yuzu, either floating about freely, or, more often, cut in half and put into the bath water within a net, so that the full aroma is released. Japanese people belive that such a yuzuyu will help keeping colds away and prevent sickness all through the winter.

Well, it worked for me last year, so I’ll go again a bit later tonight…

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