The Ring of Fire — no, it’s not just the focus of a famous Johnny Cash song, it’s also a region around the Pacific Ocean where the Pacific, Filipino, and North American tectonic plates grind against each other. The Ring of Fire is to blame for all of those earthquakes you hear about over in California, and it’s responsible for just as much mayhem in the regions of the Philippines and Japan. Check out a world earthquake chart to see just how crazy things can get on the Ring of Fire
While the Ring of Fire is responsible for devastating the Pacific Rim, there are actually a few benefits to living in the area. Proximity to a plate edge usually means volcanic activity, and volcanic activity usually means hot springs. Japan gets its fair share of earthquakes, but it is also internationally famous for having some of the world’s best hot springs.
Hot springs are so popular in Japan that they’ve kind of become ingrained into the culture, and they’re frequently used in animation. Even the local wildlife gets to enjoy a relaxing dip now and then. So, it’s no surprise that hot spring resorts, or “onsen” populate the land of the Rising Sun. Because so many of these onsen are actually centuries old, they frequently feature the crisp, geometric Japanese aesthetic, which actually serves enhance the feelings of peace and tranquility quite well.
To be clear, the Japanese onsen is a bit different from what westerners might expect, as it deviates from the Greco-Roman public bathhouses. Rather than acting as an actual bath, it’s more of a relaxation tool. Guests are expected to give themselves a thorough scrub down and rinse away every trace of the suds before taking a dip. That way, the bath water is fresh and clean for all guests.
If you do ever end up in Japan, it’d be worth your while to check out a Japanese onsen for a truly unique taste of local culture. But be careful: a cultural quirk in Japan has led many establishments to forbid entrance to people with tattoos due to the association between the yakuza and tattoos. And don’t be shy — leave your swim gear at home, because you’ll be expected to wear your birthday suit.