A retired businessman visits a hotspring in the high mountains of Japan and meets a young hotspring keeper. The two men get into interesting conversation. The hotspring keeper takes him deep into the woods in the back of the hot spring, where he finds an astounding secret spring where animals are bathing. The combination of the human bath and the secret animal bath gives a magical effect – rejuvenating into the opposite sex.

-Quoting from the author’s blog:

I recently went to “Kasuga Hot Spring” near Tateshina Mountain in Nagano Perfecture. (Location: 36.194720, 138.337959).

Kasuga Hot Spring is famous as “Hot Spring of Jewel Skin” and it is known (as I experienced) that the skin becomes more feminine and beautiful after taking the bath. Kasuga Hot Spring was developed in Enpo Period (1673-1681), when a local  hunter found an wounded deer resting in a hot spring for curing herself.  Even before that finding Kasuga Area was known for deer’s population and was called “Deer’s Village”. The spring water is rich in metasilicates and it is probably the reason why women get more beautiful (skin gets silkier). Kasuga Hot Spring boasts various efficacies; making beautiful skin; curing neuralgia, muscle pain, joint pain, frozen shoulder, motor paralysis, stiffness of joints, bruises, sprains, chronic digestive disease, hemorrhoids, poor circulation, illness recovery period, fatigue recovery; health promotion in general. I went there at the end of August, 2015. My skin became silkier and younger. It had both inner (enclosed) baths and outer open air bath – don’t worry, men have their own segregated area. The outer open air bath was about 4m x 3m or so and 50cm or so deep. It had very beautiful special hexagonal roof supported by 6 wooden pillars. I was in the outer bath for two hours and totally relaxed. The plot of this book came to mind while I was half dreaming in the bath.

A Slippery Slope in a Hotspring

Chapter 1

The Staggering Combo

It was a moonless starry midnight. The old stag tottered on and on. He was indubitably ancient, yet had a kind of regality around him that reflected in his proud erect back and towering grand antlers. Yet his body had lost all youthful stamina and vigor. The stag’s limbs were not as strong and sprightly as they used to be. They were sore and hurt a lot, making even a single step forward an excruciatingly painful task. He took one step of each forelimb and painfully dragged his hind-quarters behind him.

He passed a majestic beautiful cherry blossom tree beyond which lay a mini thicket. The stag passed the mini thicket and came across a clearing. The clearing showed the most wondrous amalgamation of the natural and the man-made. A splendorous outdoor hot spring, with the clearest pristine emerald green water, lay flanked by imperial boulders and small shrubs. An ornamental bonsai also lay to one corner of the bath. The bath lay sprawled over an area of 3mx4m and had a depth of about 50 cm. It was covered by a singularly unique hexagonal roof and was supported by six sturdy beautifully-shaped wooden pillars.

To the tired old animal, the spring was a Godsend. The pure thick mist emanating from it was inviting. The stag walked the areas covered by stone tiles and gingerly put one forelimb into the water. Finding the temperature soothingly moderate—not to hot, not too cold—he immersed the entire expanse of his ancient body in it. The naive stag didn’t realize it, but the hot spring had segregated sections for men and women. The section the stag had immersed himself in was that of the men’s.

The stag lay in the rock-made spring until dawn. The geothermal spring had worked its magic. He felt considerably younger and his joint pain subdued a bit. Had the stag’s condition not been so pathetic, he may have been completely cured. However considering how poorly he had been, a recovery of the above mentioned degree was by itself miraculous. Intense sufferings had, previously, subdued the stag’s pleasure in living; he found that he had regained it after a few hours in the Kasuga Hot Spring. The stag took deep, voluptuous breaths, basking in the joy of being alive.

A Yumori, keeper of the hot spring, came in to start his duty for the day. He was a comely young man, tall of limb and beautifully-sculpted of body. He was in his early 20s and with his shapely sculpted bones, chiseled features and delicate skin, was much more glorious than the average male. A poet or an aesthetic would have described his looks as that of a young Greek God’s. As he flicked a strand of black floppy hair from his right brow, he noticed the stag.

Rendered self-conscious by the presence of a human being, the stag stood up slowly. Then he got off the bath and disappeared into the woods with more gusto than before.

The young yumori begun with his duty. He reached out for the drain-lid and emptied the bath. He scrubbed it with soap and a mop, and then rinsed it with clean tap water. Following this procedure, he turned the faucet of hot water from the source of the hot spring and filled the rock-bath with it. The yumori went to the bathroom and checked if every faucet was working and whether the stools, soap and towels were in place. He replaced all cotton mats with fresh clean ones. The bath was now open for visitors.

Meanwhile, the stag had sauntered into the recesses of the woods. Though he felt much safer here than the human-bath after the yumori had come in, the stag didn’t know his way out. He was sucked deeper and deeper into the cryptic confusing labyrinth that was the woods. At one point, he reached the precipice of a cliff and, by the instincts that animals have, warned himself not to fall off it. Just when he’d got around to feeling better, he didn’t want to die. Then, he noticed a ray of light coming through a wall of brambles. He slashed his way through the bush to find the mouth of a cave.

At the other end of the cave he stood astonished. He saw an astounding sapphire blue spring. It was a natural secluded animal hot-spring. If the rock-made human bath had been beautiful, the natural animal hot-spring was divine. Boulders of volcanic igneous and metamorphic rock surrounded the ethereal pool. A host of cherry-blossoms, in full bloom of spring, encircled it in the most enchanting manner. Every once in a while, as the gentle wind blew, either one of the trees would shed a flower into the corn-flower blue waters beneath. The stag noticed that the moment this happened, the flower would become newer and fresher than before.

The stag approached the spring gingerly. He was excited, but also a little apprehensive. The vaporized steam emanating from the lovely spring lent a surreal misty aura to the place. When the mist dispersed, the stag could see various animals of other species: rabbits, hares, chipmunks, monkeys, deer and birds inside the spring. He got into it cautiously, apprehensive that the other animals would protest in some way. He felt they were even likely attack him. However, the creatures sat there in peaceful, harmonious tolerance. All of them, it was obvious; saw themselves as speckles of one utopian unified cosmos. Cooperation and coexistence seemed to be the rule followed by the animals bathing in the spring.

As the beautiful blue waters embraced the stag, he fell into a delicious, dreamy sleep. The waters were even more soothing and pacifying than the waters of the rock-made human bath had been; its properties much more spectacular and mirific. The stag felt a pleasant tingling sensation all over his body. It was the most delectable sensation he had felt and the stag lay there until the end of the day.

Twilight merged into purple darkness. The day birds flew off to their nests. The night came alive with the creaking of crickets and the hooting of nocturnal birds. The moon that had played coy the previous day was resplendent in its full glory. The silvery moon beams were so bright that it might as well have been day.

The stag reluctantly hauled himself out of the spring. He looked around for his companions of the morning, but they were nowhere to be seen. The stag felt small, agile and….feminine. It was a queer feeling, yet not an unpleasant one. He perched himself on one of the igneous boulders and beheld his reflection in the shimmering sapphire-blue waters below. The bright moonlight showed him the most stupefying sight he’d ever come across in his life. The old stag had metamorphosed into a young doe.

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