This is my 8th visit to Japan. Each time I visit I’m much more comfortable, I question the food less, the customs less, and I go with the flow as much as possible. There is one place though that always remains a mystery to me; the Japanese hot springs, or onsen as they are called in Japan.
I ended after a very long, stressful, irritating, exhausting flight asking the question, “Isthis what vacation is like from now on?”
“This” being not really having a moment alone, a moment to relax, a moment to feel rested, a moment that feels like an actual vacation. You know, like you had pre baby. Well, the short answer is, yes. Yes, this is how vacations will be from now on, which sounds awful. But the long answer isn’t a simple yes or no, and it really isn’t as dreadful sounding.
Knowing what happened after the last time I met my friends, the pressure was on. Aya’s parents had moved away from Kuki since then, and what made this visit a little more stressful is that I couldn’t walk home after going to the bar. I had to take the train back home an hour away. So the trick would be to not miss the last train for the night. If I missed the last train for the night, well, let’s just say that wouldn’t be a good thing. Aya’s mom gave me a curfew of 12:30am and said if I missed it, she wouldn’t let me in, and Aya wouldn’t be allowed to let me in either. She was joking of course… I think.
Every trip to Japan we take, I always try to give Aya some time with just her parents where she doesn’t have to worry about translating things to me. Where they can all speak openly and freely without me dragging the conversation down to a third grade level. “What is that? How do you spell that? Where does that come from? What’s your favorite Japanese fruit?” So after a few trips to Japan I felt confident to go out to dinner by myself to give them some space. Each trip, I try to push the boundaries of my comfort level and that’s how I met my friends. My friends from Kuki, Japan.
Every time we go visit Aya’s parents, we always do an overnight trip to the hot springs. This is a very popular activity in Japan. What are the hot springs? Well, the Japanese love their baths, and they love fancy food, and scenic views. A hot springs hotel is a place where you can take a bath, eat a fancy meal, and take in a scenic view while you’re at it too. These places pipe in the natural hot springs water (they have some sort of medicinal effect) for you to soak in a big public bath… nude… with strangers. When this was explained to me on my first trip to Japan, I started to worry what I got myself into.