Monday, November 15, 2010

Onsen Time

…cause bathing in a group is always fun.
Lisa asked me if I tried this yet, and now I have!

Mark and I went decided to try going to an Onsen for the 1st time on Veteran’s Day last week. For those of you who do not know what and onsen is, it’s a Japanese bath house. Still clueless? A Japanese bath house is where you go and soak in a hot spring, sometimes natural, sometimes not. Basically an overgrown hot tub. This one is not made to look natural, it is like a shallow swimming pool and they mix in special ingredients to make your soak good for you skin and your body inside and out. For this area, you must wear a bathing suit. In other hot spring areas clothes are not worn. When you are done soaking in the pool you then go inside and take off you swim suit and dry it in the spinner. Time to get naked with the locals. Since this part is in the dressing room you will see people with their towels wrapped around them, hiding as much as possible but yet if it shows, no one really cares and believe me, everyone around you could care less if there is a “nipple slip”. Too bad the Super bowl wasn’t at a Japanese bath house, huh? There is another closed off area where you are allowed to wash, but if you are looking for western showers, you will be looking for a while. In the bath you will see stalls that are not closed off, stools, buckets, and a metal cup with holes in the bottom. Don’t ask me what the metal cup is for, I doubt I could tell you what the shallow plastic bucket is for, I assume rinsing. You sit on the stool in your shower cubical and in front of you are a mirror and water faucets, along with a removable shower head. The water is turned on by you pressing the knob like the timed water sinks you may see in public restrooms and there is one for the shower head and for the regular faucet. It’s by your knees and I am thinking is used to fill your rinsing bucket, and your feet. Never mind sitting beside other people, only women for me, they aren’t worried about you, or if they were I made sure not to pay attention. My eyes were on me only. After your shower you can get dressed, which is what Mark and I opted for or you can go for another soak in bath water. In Japan, you bath water is purely for soaking, not for washing. After you wash, you go relax in the tub. There is a larger one, where it seems is big enough to move around in as Mark found out on his side that old Japanese men like to exercise in the larger tub kept at 40 degrees Celsius. There is also a smaller tub, made to look like a natural mini hot springs in which you can also soak in. You will not be in here alone though and no one has their clothes on, be advised. Now, if I had someone with me that could coach me through this experience, I may have decided to be a bit braver. As it was, it was my 1st time and I don’t like to offend the locals and with a culture of rules, I didn’t want to do it wrong! At least I watched enough anime to know, you wash 1st. Anime is good for something beside entertainment. It is funny how much Mark and I learned from anime and how the Japanese people are surprised at what Mark and I know. We often get a, “How did you know that?!” Mark and I laugh because those who know us know we have been priming out life for Japanese living, but as much as we like to be “in tune” we don’t know as much as we would like, but we are changing that and are not afraid to ask questions and our local friends are not afraid to answer. Mark is now addicted it. Mark not only loves water but he loves jacuzzis so it’s a double win and has been asking to go back since last Thursday. Maybe we will go again soon.

Some things you may need to know about bath houses:

Luckily the one that we went to, Chula-U, is used to American costumers so they will allow Americans to have tattoos. If you are Japanese, however, you are not so lucky. For Japan, it is still a sign of the yakuza to have tattoos, so they will not let you in the bath unless you find a way to keep it covered, which in a place that demands you to be naked, good luck with that. Again, with Chula-U you have to be clothes in the one hot spring, but not in the bathing part.

Don’t go expecting to take pictures of this part of Japan and its culture; I am sure you can guess why. Picture taking in the bath house is strictly prohibited.

If you have a problem with being naked around people and naked people being around you, I suggest you stay at home. There are no changing rooms that we are used to and, young or old, nakedness in not a big deal for the Japanese.

It’s a place to go and relax, take your time, bring the family. It’s good for your skin and fun for the family. Would you pay 1,000 yen to take a bath, not always, but Mark and I will go back soon I am sure!

Food for thought?
Yakiniku, Korean food with a Japanese name and you cook your food for yourself on a grill or hot plate depending on the place.  At the "Red Roof" it's a grill and it's crazy delicious. 

Sayonara from the Scott’s!

Thursday, November 4, 2010


What, you were expecting the lottery?

I have had an extremely busy week and by busy I mean getting ready for my 1st parent teacher conferences. Yes, that is bound to be ENDLESS fun as I have to be in early and leave late on a Friday and I am bound to make someone angry. That cannot ruin the GREAT day, minute, week, month that one conversation has turned this time in to. This blog is going to be very anti climatic for some of you but for some of those reading they will feel the same joy. I plan to celebrate tonight all by myself with a relaxing bath, as I will not have time to bathe tomorrow morning as I require Starbucks on my way to work tomorrow, and drink a Ramune, my favorite Japanese drink that is in my opinion blog worthy, minus the marble tonight though. Before I force you to read some of my other ramblings I will give you a hint, November 30th is the new happiest day of my life…okay maybe not, but you get my point.

Mark is gone, I am home alone, I am having mixed feelings about this as I decided NOT to go on an ITT tour and save the money and spend it on others for the upcoming holidays. I still owe a special friend a couple of special gifts.

I take this time to introduce you to:

Running/Walking pre-twilight on the Sunabe seawall.

As I am walking early one Saturday morning, before Mark was awake and before the rooster was crowing. Yes, there is a rooster in our neighborhood. I am seeing men and women what appears to be leaving the “Moon”; a local eatery and bar with pool and slot machines. As I notice the long night for the group I am mindlessly rocking out to my Keane on my iPod and running along, showing that I am hardcore to the drunken cab hailers. I continue to run toward the sea wall and I notice a man with his head in his hands sitting on the cub outside of yet, another bar, with what I figure were his wing men, making sure he was okay. I couldn’t hear what they were saying because I was too busy jogging along with a smirk on my face. I see some other people, a big group of Japanese girls, so people crashed on benches and this is at 5:30 am. Then I see it, the coup de grace of my run/walk/jog. Two men making a yin and yang symbol with their bodies on a bench on the seawall. This stopped me in my tracks, enough so to notice that they were Americans and I can only assume that they are military. This coupling told me a story. The two, hammered out of their minds, missing curfew and having nowhere else to go, decided to head to the one place they knew they could sleep for free and wouldn’t get busted by town patrol, my jogging path, the sea wall. I continued on after this, laughing to myself wishing I had my Japanese iPhone. As I am coming back, I pass the two again, they are still there, silently yin and yanging each other and I remember, I can still download pictures on my American iPhone that my new Keane album, “Night Train”, is being held hostage on. So OF COURSE, like a 15 year old that has never seen men cuddling, I take a picture. As I take said picture to my own folly I am “busted” by a Japanese woman that gives me and the men a giggle and wishes me an, ”ohayou “to which I laugh in spite of myself and say, “ohayou gozaimasu.” Feeling rather accomplished I walk home receiving another ohayou from what seemed to be a member of the avid walkers group of which I became a part of that morning.

Now, the moment you have all be waiting for. It’s not a baby, so get that out of your heads, the day will completely stand still on that day and no one will hear from me for about a week I am sure as I will have to spend all of my time talking to my family. This is something very important to Mark and I, something we have been waiting on for a year, something that will open up the doors of Japan, Korea, and the USA. The house will soon be in contract. We have a buyer, we are breaking even, and we couldn’t be more grateful or thankful for this gift for the Lord Almighty. The house will be closed as of November 30th and we will no longer have to pay one more payment on a mortgage for a house we are no longer in. We are happy to see it go. It was our 1st house. Mark and I have learned so much from being home owners and we can’t wait for the day to come, but right now, is not that time. We are in Japan and we are now going to use that extra money to save, save, save, get our little baby boy Hercules (aka Lees, aka Herca Boy), and visit hopefully Korea and mainland Japan. We are now going to be planning a big trip back home and many things won’t strain us. We will be working hard to take care of many, many things. So there you have it, there is a big weight of my hubby’s and my shoulders and we are over the moon happy, excited, and I hope you all are excited with us. We now have no ties in Wyoming other than my friends and by bizarre citizenship. Yes, I am STILL a citizen of Wyoming, I am a Wyomingite. If you would have told me that 10 years ago I should have looked at you like you were the stupidest person on this earth. No more house, good by Nimmo Drive, we thank you, sorry if we are not shedding tears of sorrow.

Now it’s bath time and rest for my big day tomorrow. Nothing can ruin my high, well maybe a few things, but why bring up the bad with all this good?

Sayonara from the Scott’s!