Sunday, February 19, 2006

A lazy day..........and then some....

I was originally going to post something useless profound about the world situation or some other such subject, but after the ebb and flow of yesterday I said, "Screw it. That can wait for another day". Yesterday was too nice to mess it up with the world's misery.

Yesterday was a really good day. The S.O. went to work for a half day after which we were supposed to join her friend and her husband for a trip to Toki no Sumika Onsen.
(時之住処)。 If you have never been to an Onsen, you have missed out. The popular explanation of Onsens is "Hot Spings" or Japanese Hot Bath, but actually, its more than that. I forgot how nice it could be to go to one. This particular place is located in Gotemba , right down the road from Gotemba Golf club, and is a combination resort, onsen, and tourist attraction. The traffic Gods were with us as we made it from our apartment to the Onsen in about an hour, with the S.O.'s friend's husband doing the driving. That meant that once there I could drink the local beer: Gotemba kogen. Plus by agreement, for my benefit, the conversation the whole day was to be in Japanese. ( At least till I hit a wall.) Free study and relaxation; topped off by a good buzz. What more can any serious student of the Japanese language ask for?( I'm very proud of myself, I held my own quite well in Nihongo, thank you very little!)

Perhaps I should back up a bit and explain how the process of going there works. You get there, park, then go in and pay your entrance fee. You are given a wrist band with a key to a locker, a bag with a Yukata, belt, and an outer jacket. Guys go to a guys locker room, Girls go to a girls locker room. You change out of your clothes, (usually leaving your skivvies on) put on the Yukata, then the jacket. Lock the locker, take the bag come back out. You will then look like this:



If you are a girl then we will assume you look much better than that:



Which, by the way. shows the first thing you should do. Get naked and get clean! However this is more complicated than it seems as you just don't get into the water, oh no, you have a ritual to follow: 1) go into another locker room, get naked. 2) with another key around your arm weigh your self. (Don't ask, I'm 2 kilos heavier than I should be). 3) go into the bath find a sink with a chair and clean your self all over with shampoo and soap...rinse VERY well.

Now in case you are wondering, or have not been to Japan before, the onsen is not about bathing. You need to be clean before getting in. Its about peace and relaxation.

4) Go to Sauna. SWEAT! Then come out, pour water over yourself. 5) Enter the outdoor hot spring:


Kimochi ne!

Sit, talk, watch the view of the mountains. Its Ok, the girls have their side and the guys have theirs. (Co-ed onsens in Japan are few and far between I have found......). When ready go inside to the inside bath which is usually hotter than the outside. Repeat.

When you are just about wrinkled enough, get out, go back to the locker room. Put back on the Yukata dry your hair, brush your teeth, and go on out in to the general area. Drink beer. Go to the sleeping area, sit in a massage chair. Play chess ( or Chinese Chess) . Drink more beer. Bottom line is relax. There are NO TV's here which I think is just great. When ready, go to the restaurant ( still in your Yukata.....) , have a nice dinner, drink more beer, maybe some sake too. Another trip to the bath, maybe a few more minutes in the massage chair and .....sigh...it all comes to an end.

Now mind you, I've done this several times before, but yesterday I really needed it. This past weekend had sucked and my boss had shown his true colors on Friday. ( MEAN!). So I needed a break.

Because on the way home, the girls decided to go on: THE GREAT MELON BREAD HUNT!
Seems that the Ebina service area on the Tomei Expressway is known for its Melon Bread. How a service area is famous for anything is beyond me, but that's what they said. (Known in Japanese as Meron no Pan メーロンのパン)。 Trouble is, that to get back to our apartment, one has to get off before the Ebina service area. No problem, the friends husband takes us down a series of ever increasingly narrow side streets till we end up at what looks like a warehouse. There is a big sign on the slightly open door: 立ち入り禁止。Entrance prohibited. S.O.'s friend was not dissuaded. In we went. ( Makes me wonder what stops a terrorist from getting in.......). Went to the stand that sells melon bread. CLOSED! Rapid conversation in Japanese ensues. The south bound lane stays open later..........

Back out the exit we were never supposed to have come in. Into the car, where S.O's friend's husband was on his 10th cigarette of the day ( I've never seen anyone smoke so much......). Around more narrow streets, under bridges, and on the other side we end up. Boldy pushing our way past the same signs we enter the service alley and end up at the equivelant bread stall. ALSO CLOSED! Man, this must be some kind of bread! Lots of "Sumimasen...and when do you open" said before we return to the car.

Not to worry. No one was there on the way out. Homeward bound we went. I was really happy and content. S.O's friends dropped us off and I was looking forward to a night of sweet bliss with S.O.

Then my cell phone went off................

(TO BE CONTINUED..............)

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