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Taking a Hot-Sand Bath

The most popular thing to do in Ibusuki is to have yourself buried up to your neck in black sand at Yunohama Beach, heated naturally by hot springs that surface close to the ground before running into the sea. To take part, head to the Natural Sand Bath (Suna Mushi Kaikan) (tel. 0993/23-3900; daily 8:30am-noon and 1-9pm), a modern facility nicknamed Saraku by the locals (saraku has two meanings: to walk around, and to enjoy the sand). Take the elevator up to the reception, pay ¥900 for the baths and rental yukata (add another ¥200 if you didn't bring a towel), change into the yukata in the dressing room, and then head down to the beach. One of the women there will dig you a shallow pit. Lie down, arrange your yukata so no vulnerable areas are exposed, and then lie still while she piles sand on top of you. It's quite a funny sight, actually, to see nothing but heads sticking out of the ground. The water, a hot 185°F (85°C), contains sodium chloride and is considered beneficial in alleviating rheumatism, arthritis, gastrointestinal troubles, neuralgia, and female disorders. It is also valued as a beauty treatment for the skin. After your 15-minute sand bath, go indoors for a relaxing hot-spring bath and the sauna. The Natural Sand Bath is a 20-minute walk or 7-minute bike ride from Ibusuki Station; from the main exit, head straight down Chuo Dori to the beach and turn right. You can also take a bus to the Suna Mushi Kaikan stop.

Satsuma Denshokan

You'd expect to find this world-class private gallery in a big city like Tokyo, but Satsuma Denshokan, located in Hakusuikan Ryokan (daily 8:30am-5pm), is at home instead in this small resort town, thanks to the ryokan's owners who have spent the last 60 years amassing this amazing 3,000-piece collection. Housed in a restful, Kyoto-style building set within a reflective pond, it shows some 380 pieces on a rotating basis, including artifacts dating from the Meiji Restoration, Satsuma ceramics created especially for export and made popular by the 1867 Paris Exposition, and Chinese ceramics and porcelain spanning 8 centuries, including rare finds with Imperial stamps. Admission is ¥1,500 for adults, ¥1,200 for university students, ¥600 for high-school students, and ¥300 for children. You can easily spend an hour or more here, aided by an audio guide. There's no public transportation here, so you'll have to take a taxi 5 minutes from Ibusuki Station.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.