Ha ha. Just wanted to get your attention with a title. No naked pictures here, although we did partake of the hotel's onsen. Fed by natural hot springs, the onsen experience is perhaps more interesting than the trip we took itself to Hakone, about and hour and a half west and south of Tokyo and the site of a big volcanically created lake, steaming sulphur mountains, more soba than you'd ever want to eat, and lots of hot springs.
We had so-so weather, clouds, a bit of rain, patches of sun. We took a trip on a "pirate ship" (don't ask me why) across Lake Ashi and ascended up a series of cable cars to the sulphur gas spewing mountainsides. I was woefully underdressed. (Rich neglected to tell me that we were going up a mountain.) So we didn't venture out to the slopes of the mountain where you can sample "black" eggs. I guess the eggs are buried in the ground and are cooked and they turn black.
My favorite part was the toy museum that had great old-fashioned toys (lots of vehicles) from a collection of a Japanese man who - well, loved to collect toys. There was also an amazingly pristine Cadillac we saw in the hotel parking lot. The body of this car was so close the ground, I can't imagine how one can drive it. It was stunning.
But back to the onsen. The baths are single-sex so one proceeds to the men's or women's "locker room" and undresses. We actually donned yukata (light cotton robes) for the walk from our room, down the elevator and to the onsen. Once inside you strip and put your clothes in a little basket and then walk to the washing off room. At this particular hotel, there were about 20 washing stations, each with it's own stool, spigot and hand-held shower. It was a good thing the room was very steamy - it made being naked a bit more comfortable.
At the washing stations, you vigorously wash your entire body with the provided soaps and shampoo and rinse thoroughly. Then you proceed to the baths. I opted for the outdoor baths. So you go outside and brace yourself for the cold air, and then step slowly into the bath. It can be pretty hot. From then on, it's like being in a hot tub but the water is supposedly full of healthy minerals. Being outside is lovely, as you can imagine, gazing up at the starts through the tops of the trees.
My dear husband took Max both nights of our stay and his comment after the pre-bedtime soak was, "I hope you appreciate how UN-relaxing that was." Something about chasing a naked two-year old across wet slippery stones...
Any guilt I might have had was easily wiped away with memories of my nearly 24/7 solo care of Max for the past 3 weeks.
Rich and Max on the cable car
Steaming sulpher on the mountainside. Yes, it was smelly.
Heather and Max on the "pirate ship" crossing Lake Ashi
We spent last Saturday afternoon at a nearby park. It was Rich's first weekend off in three weeks and it was just nice to relax together. It was warm in the sun and Max had a blast with his friend Tamano. Afterwards we went to a coffee shop for apple pie. And it wasn't half bad!
Heather, Rich and Max moved from Maplewood, New Jersey to Tokyo in February 2008. It's hard to believe we've been here a year and a half. Officially, we should head home in February 2010 but the big mystery is will we stay longer.