Beaujolais-crazed Japanese bathing in wine

The Japanese like Beaujolais Nouveau wine so much they're swimming in it ... literally.

24 Nov 2006

A hot spring spa resort in Hakone, a resort region near Japan's celebrated Mount Fuji, is pouring the fruity red wine into one of its pools until Sunday to celebrate the release of this year's product.

The Hakone Kowakien Yunessun is bringing out a real sommelier to pour a dozen bottles of the Beaujolais Nouveau, produced by France's Cordier, into its open-air "wine spa" every day.

"We installed the wine spa last year, and did the Beaujolais Nouveau celebration. It was a great success," said Seiji Sanada, an official at Yunnesun.

"The aroma of Beaujolais is very pleasing, very nice. From the open-air spa, you can see the mountains, leaves turning color and hear the sound of a nearby ravine. It's very pleasant," he said.

On Thursday when officials in the "wine spa" poured the Beaujolais Nouveau into the bath, people enjoyed catching the wine falling through the air with their hands and tasting it, while soaking in the bath at the same time. Japan is the biggest importer of Beaujolais Nouveau, with the wine sold everywhere from fine restaurants to convenience stores.

Even though beer and Japanese sake remain far more popular than wine, Beaujolais Nouveau has become a seasonal fad in Japan which this year ordered a record 11 million bottles. Sanada insisted that the Beaujolais bath had real value.

Wine smoothens the skin and its aroma relaxes the mind, he said.

The company said bathing in wine is "a rejuvenation treatment".

"It has been said that the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, loved to bath in wine," said a company release. Japan is dotted by natural springs, or "onsen," where people kick back and soak in steamy hot water.

While most onsen require bathing in the buff, people are asked to don swimsuits to dip into the Beaujolais Nouveau.

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