Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Denial is born in the branch of a large tree."

Part Two of my onsen adventure! When I said, "Please invite me again," I was expecting, oh, maybe in a month. Maybe, if I'm still here in April, soaking in a hot spring under the cherry blossoms. I certainly wasn't expecting to be invited the very next weekend, and wasn't exactly prepared either as I spent all of last week feeling very sick. When I'm not well I want to hide away, and there's few things less hidden than being at an onsen in a small towel. But I'm always afraid if I turn down one invitation I will never get another.

This time we were bound for a real sulphur springs. It was pouring rain as we left, but as we went higher into the mountains it turned to snow until at the actual location it was up to our knees.

This thrilled the two Filipinas, and again we took every possible combination of photos. Rather than the beautiful outside location of the first onsen, this was in an unimposing little shed:

At first I was covering up my nose from the cold, but when I took my glove away for a second I was immediately struck with such a stench that I put it back. It was like being smothered in an omelette, and I had a panicky moment of, "I can't sit in there and smell that for more than an hour." But once we were actually inside, it faded to a faint stone smell. The water was completely opaque white, and the air was also opaque with steam. It was very cozy inside - the four of us and five unknown men in two tubs. I think I preferred the open space and pretty view of the other onsen. As it was still snowing outside, I had a daydream of sitting in the hot water with snowflakes disappearing around me. The sulphur was pleasant, though, and seems to have been good for my skin.

The principal asked about our weekend on Monday, and we described our onsen adventure. He knew everything about both onsens we had visited - which at first gave me the unnerving feeling that maybe he had been one of those men barely seen through the steam. But apparently when he had last been there the price had been a hundred yen less, so that was probably a few years ago.

Also, today is Setsbun, the day before the season changes. Roasted soybeans are thrown out the door to frighten away evil spirits. (Somehow this got confused in my mind with thelegend about vampires having to obsessively stop and count seeds if you scattered them for distraction, but I don't think it's related.) There was also a small bag of the beans along with lunch today - you're supposed to eat one for every year of your age but I just ate the whole bag - there was maybe thirty, I wonder what the older teachers are supposed to do. Another tradition involves eating an entire uncut roll of sushi while facing the year's lucky compass direction - as seen in this video, where a reporter decided to perform the ritual in the middle of Times Square.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

dear emily, i bless you, did you say you went to the onsen wearing a small towell or you were in a small town. love our father, I am doing my chaplaincy at veteran's hospital this unit, GOD IS GOOD.