Day 12

And I wake in the morning to find Tokyo ablaze in a blanket of white.  After those beautiful couple of days where we took morning tea and walked around the Imperial Palace and strolled along the museums and garden districts for what seemed like an entire day, I now see Tokyo in it’s winter snow coat.l  Apparently this is a bit of a novelty for Tokyo as it doesn’t always snow so it was pretty special to see it.  It is so very pretty and lovely, but as always the reality of walking in this lovliness is not always so easy.  SNOW = COLD  SNOW = SLUDGE  SNOW = SLIPPERY SIDEWALKS.  Unless you are really geared for it snow can be lethal... but then impractical things are always beautiful for behold and be a part of... and snow still has that effect on me of making everything feel slightly childlike and fantastical.

Lasts weeks adventures included an authentic Japanese ONSEN experience.  An ONSEN is a relaxation bath house of the birthday suit variety.  When you enter an onsen you are entering a place of relaxation and repose, and the Japanese are very good at doing such things very well.  As soon as you walk in the door you are asked to remove your shoes, you are then given a YAKUTA (kimono for want of a more familiar term) and directed to the changing areas where you remove EVERYTHING and change into your Yakuta.  You then pass through more doors and find a sort of marketplace with restaurants and souvenir shops.  Everyone is wearing Yakutas and the whole experience is quite lovely, as if you have stepped into another timezone and place.  You are then directed towards the bathing areas, seperated of course, according to gender, where you derobe and walk around starkers with everyone else.  Now being a patron of naked beaches in Oz this was kind of OK for me but for others it can be quite a humbling experience... until you see this tiny little boy of about 5 running around giggling and laughing as if it is the most natural thing in the world to do, to run around naked. Then you realise all is natural and wonderful.  

The baths themselves are huge pools (3 or 4), rather shallow and heated to a wonderful 42 degrees. There are outdoor and indoor pools and you just sit and relax in as many as you like.  The outdoor pools are quite lovely as even though it is quite cool outside (especially when you are starkers), the warm water is like wrapping yourself up in a blanket at the football on Sundays.  There are saunas and spas as well and you just hang about basically, doing nothing.  The baths are not for bathing though.  The japanese tradition is to wash yourself and cleanse before entering the bath.  At first you are asked to pour water over yourself from the cart, much like at a temple when you wash your hands (and mouth supposedly) with clean water.  Then you have a little cubicle with a small stool, like a footstool and your own shower.  You wash yourself, and being a westerner are very aware that these cubicles are made for small Japanese men... I felt a little like Hagrid!  But then it is relax relax relax... and after the first week of performances it was certainly what I needed.  

After a good soak it was then time for a good Shiatsu.  They have a communal room with about 20 beds all layed out at about knee height.  You are intoduced to your masseur and promptly put on a bed and they start working on you.  THIS WAS GREAT!  30 min felt like 45  and it is the first massage I have had in a long while so I really enjoyed it.  See Cate, I can do it when I allow the time!  

then there was the outdoor sectionwhere you remain dressed in your Yakuta so you could mix with the opposite sex.  This was a meandering stream of hot water that you walked along through a rock garden.  The added bonus was all the pebbbles under the water that were laid out ina variety of configurations for a self-reflexology walk!!!! Didn’t seem odd at the time but the westerners were having a great time walking alond and getting stabbed and pushed by tehse rocks of supposed pleasure whilst all the Japanese were sitting acalmly rubbing thierr feet on single pebbles!!  OK so wo may have got it wrong but we enjoyed the challenge.  We anticipated being there for an hour or so but walked out 3 1/2 hrs later, blissed out and gloating... certainly worth it.  


AuthorPeter Furness