I apologize for not keeping up this blog better these past few weeks. Before we came here, I had planned to try to write something every day. Living in Japan would be so different, I presumed, that I would have endless topics to write about, right? Well… and it is true… it is VERY different here, and there is so much to write about that I think sometimes I feel overwhelmed by it all, and can’t decide what to write about. Also, the business of living here gets in the way. It is a very different thing living here… as opposed to being a tourist here. Anyway… this may be a rambling post today as I attempt to catch up with what we have been doing.
Our son and his girlfriend visited a couple of weeks ago. Her parents and brother came with them. My son has been to Japan already a few times, and he has been taking Japanese classes since he was in college, so he is actually more familiar and comfortable in this culture than we are. He and his girlfriend and family had their own travel plans and schedule, so we pretty much just saw them while they were in Tokyo, and for the weekends. Our apartment being so small, they rented an AirB&B for her family, and just he and his girlfriend stayed here. It was really nice having them visit, and I hope they will visit some more while we are still living here. I look forward to having other family members visit while we are here too.
The first weekend that they were visiting, we went to Asakusa with them to a festival. Asakusa is one of the older and more traditional areas in Tokyo. If you want to see the “real” Tokyo, you have to get away from the trendy high-rise areas, and wander some of the back streets in places like Asakusa. There is just so much to see and do. Asakusa has the largest Shinto shrine in Tokyo… as well as a beautiful Buddhist pagoda… at Senso-ji. That is where the festival was, and it was beautiful and crowded, and larger-than-life that weekend! Street-food vendors were everywhere… the crowds were shoulder to shoulder. It was an amazing place to be… at least for awhile. Lol… sometimes crowds just get to be too… crowded. You know what I mean?
The next weekend, we met them in Hakone as they traveled back to Tokyo from Kyoto. Hakone is a resort area in the mountains south of Mt. Fuji. The area is known for the natural hot springs — after all Mt. Fuji is an active volcano. Hakone is filled with hotels and ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) with hot spring onsens (traditional Japanese public baths.) We stayed there at a beautiful ryokan. The onsen experience might seem a little bit weird for non-Japanese. There are separate baths for men and women, but when you go in, you are expected to remove your clothing and bathe before getting into the hot soaking bath. It is a HUGE faux pas to not bath thoroughly before getting into the soaking bath.
There are faucets along the wall, with shower sprayers. There are little wooden stools to sit on, and plenty of soap and shampoo is provided. You use your washcloth to thoroughly soap up and then rinse with the sprayer. When you are squeaky clean, then you can get into the hot bath. It is kind of like a large hot tub… but sans swimsuits, and much cleaner. Lol. The thing was, anticipating it is much harder than actually doing it. Once I got there and started the bathing process, it was absolutely and totally relaxing… and not weird at all. This definitely should be on your to-do list if you ever come to Japan. Trust me, it is well worth it, and very enjoyable. They also provide Japanese yukata (robes… kind of like kimono, but made out of cotton fabric.) Very comfortable, and you can wear them everywhere at the ryokan… inside, outside, to the restaurant at dinner or breakfast… Totally a pampered “spa” experience.
Ok… So the explanations for the Hakone photos, in order..
- Our train to Hakone. Japan has the most amazing trains in the world. Seriously.
- A shrine in Hakone.
- A stone lantern at the same shrine.
- Two photos of our traditional room at the ryokan. We slept on futons on the tatami mat floor. Our bedding was all rolled up in the closet.
- A traditional Japanese breakfast at the ryokan. Tattamo oishii desu.
- The gate to the ryokan.
- A stone lantern in the gardens of the ryokan.
- Another photo taken at the shrine in Hakone.