The World’s Best Hot Springs: Picked by Japan’s Most Famous Female Comedy Group

They’re the most famous all-female comedic trio in Japan. Known collectively as Mori San Chu; Kazuko Kurosawa, Tomoko Murakami and Miyuki Oshima have been together for around two decades and their relationship remains as strong as ever. The three women, who can often be seen freaking out at challenges they undertake, put their success down to being ordinary, describing themselves “as typical Japanese middle-aged women, who love to eat.”

They’ve become most well-known for their appearances on the variety show Sekai no Hate Made ItteQ! (roughly translated as Questions Answered from the Ends of the Earth), which regularly has the highest audience figures in the country. Over the past decade they’ve been sent out by producers to discover the world’s best hot spring resorts while also engaging in local activities. We asked them to describe some of their more memorable trips, and some of their funniest moments along the way.

Manikaran in India

India

India’s capital and home to Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation site, New Delhi was described by Kurosawa as an “invigorating but challenging destination.” Things started gently with some laughter yoga, aimed at stimulating merriment for better health. They enjoyed that more than sutra neti; a yoga technique designed to clean the naval cavity. “A rubber tube goes up your nostrils and out through the mouth,” said Oshima. “It has health benefits, but I almost threw up.” She came close to puking again after drinking cow’s urine (gomutra), that’s said to be medicinal. “I thought it tasted like poo,” remarked Oshima.

The final location was Manikaran, a holy place with hot springs revered by Sikhs and Hindus. Unfortunately, due to rain, the water was cold. “I’d love to travel around India properly but next time with a more relaxing itinerary,” concluded Murakami.

Pamukkale
Pamukkale in Turkey

Turkey

Mori San Chu have visited countless hot spring resorts down the years, but none as spectacular as Pamukkale; a stunning, centuries-old world heritage site with travertine terraces and crystal-clear calcium pools located in southwest Turkey (pictured above and top). “We could bathe in an area that’s usually prohibited to the public,” said Kurosawa. “As the sun set the limestone appeared orange. The view was sensational.”

Prior to Pamukkale, the ladies stayed in Istanbul, a mega-city with over 2,500 years of history. Here, they experienced a hammam (Turkish bath), had ear hairs removed with a flame, and performed a belly dance. “Oshima overdid it and had a nosebleed,” recalled Kurosawa. “We were introduced on stage as Japanese angels but looked more like drunk salarymen.”

Black Canyon River Trail in Colorado
Black Canyon River Trail in Colorado

U.S.A.

When it comes to nightlife few cities compare to Las Vegas. “I’ve never been anywhere that exciting,” said Kurosawa. “The partying’s relentless,” added Murakami. After exploring the famed Fremont Street, the trio were hoping to stay in the Bellagio, a hotel with more rooms than there are residents in Italy’s Bellagio village. Sadly, they had to make to do with a tiny motel room.

The next day Oshima was selected to do a skydive. The three women regularly participate in thrilling activities. “You sometimes see models on TV doing a bungee-jump or skydive and it looks glamorous,” said Kurosawa. “With us it’s all about the fear.” The tour finished with the Black Canyon River Trail along the Colorado River, where they enjoyed an onsen and sauna cave.

Awash River in Ethiopia
Awash River in Ethiopia

Ethiopia

The spa town of Sodere in central Ethiopia was chosen for Mori San Chu’s maiden tour in Africa. It’s located alongside Awash River, where crocodiles and hippos can be found. There are also many monkeys roaming around the resort grounds. They often steal human belongings and one of them got away with Oshima’s underwear.

“I had lots of bad luck in Ethiopia,” she said. “It was a tough trip and I struggled with the sour food as well.” It wasn’t all negative. She enjoyed Kurosawa’s attempt at the Oromo dance, in which female performers violently shake their heads reaching breakneck speeds. There was also a chance to spend time with the nomadic Afar tribe and enjoy a hot spring in the jungle.

Hot Water Beach in New Zealand

New Zealand

From the Hot Water Beach on Mercury Bay to the thermal pools of Rotorua, the Waikato Region in New Zealand’s North Island is a haven for bathers. It’s also Murakami’s favorite destination to date. “The land is so vast and picturesque,” said the comedian. “You’re constantly surrounded by nature and the hot springs are amazing.”

Aside from the Flying Fox; an extreme zipline ride 175 meters above Mokai Canyon traveling at speeds up to 160kph, this trip was relaxing. The highlight was Kerosene Creek and its hot stream running over an old lava flow. The view, of a charming waterfall and surrounding trees, is tremendous.

At the Hot Water Beach, the ladies dug a hole in the sand to create personal spa pools before visiting the nearby Cathedral Cove to see the dramatic cliffs and iconic archway that featured in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

Mori San Chu

Who Are They? Meet the Comedians…

Kazuko Kurosawa

Described by Oshima as the “crazy one,” Kurosawa’s become known for her impromptu dancing and singing. She became a comedian in the hope of meeting Downtown’s Hitoshi Matsumoto and Masatoshi Hamada, the comedy duo who helped launch Mori San Chu’s career.

Tomoko Murakami

Seen as the mother-figure of the group, Murakami’s almost as famous for her cooking skills as her comedy. In 2006 she played the lead in the TV drama Busu no Hitomi ni Koi Shiteru, a story loosely based on Oshima’s marriage to famous screenwriter Osamu Suzuki.

Miyuki Oshima

Bullied at school, Oshima was advised to become a comedian by one of her tormentors. In 2002 she married Suzuki despite having never been on a date together. She didn’t even have his number on their wedding day. She was initially against the idea but was encouraged to go ahead with it by Murakami and Kurosawa.

Mori San Chu will be appearing at the tenth Okinawa International Movie Festival beginning on April 19, 2018.


Looking for amazing onsen closer to home? Read our feature, “Japan’s Most Secluded Onsen Ryokan.”

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