dakroland's Japan Journal

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Japan Trip Update Days 9 & 10 - With PICS!

Well, I'm obviously still sick, but I have some antibiotics now, so I should be on the road to recovery soon. Unfortunately chores such as laundry need to be done no matter what condition I'm in, so I'm doing that now. While I'm waiting for the current load in the washer to finish spinning out, I've decided to update the next couple of days I spent in Japan, and post some new pictures. :)

Friday

The day after we got back from Kyoto, we didn't do anything special. My daughter and I relaxed, while everyone else went to work, except for Miki, who decided to sleep in until 1pm. heh heh. I tried contacting the travel agency (IACE-Travel) to cancel our hotel room for the last 2 days in Osaka.

Originally, we were supposed to spend the last 2 days in Osaka, because the family was going to be busy, but they asked us to stay, and would take us to the airport on the day we were to return to the US. At first I said it was okay and we'd be fine on our own, but they insisted. They said they had come to really like us, and wanted us to stay. Eventually I was convinced, and we agreed to stay the last 2 days with them.

This meant I had to cancel our hotel room. If I didn't cancel it early enough, I'd get socked with a cancellation fee. 20% the day before, 80% the day of, and 100% for a no-show. The problem was, IACE-USA was not the same office as IACE in Japan. I couldn't just contact the hotel and cancel, it had to be done through the agency that booked the room for me. So I wrote an email the evening before asking for the room to be cancelled as soon as possible. They emailed me back sometime during the course of the night, but I was sleeping at that time. I woke up early enough to shoot off a last second email. Hopefully they got it in time before I would get charged the whole smash. I wouldn't find out until after we returned to the US.

So what happened? naw, I'll tell ya later. ;-)

I did wind up walking to Super Fresh Sato that day and bought some store made Obento lunches and some Yakitori for my daughter and I for lunch. I actually liked shopping on my own. Though I couldn't understand everything the cashier said, I had no trouble at all.

After school, the girls assumed the usual activities, generally joined at the hip, like sisters. :) This was a common sight throughout our time in Japan...

That night we enjoyed a simple supper. Seaweed salad, sweet potatoes, a less spicier version of the shrimp chili, edamame (which by this time I had grown to love, and was eating them like popcorn), and cooked squid.

Served along with this was rice (natch) and tempura soup.

After dinner, we ate slices of Japanese apples. These suckers are HUGE! They reminded me of Grannie Smith apples at home. Just not in color.

Saturday

Today was a big day. We had the morning and afternoon to ourselves, and then later we would go to the 30th Tanba Festival at a nearby Sasayama High School. Then, after we were done there, we would all travel to Sanda for a visit to the Onsen! My first ever. :)

After breakfast, Nori and Hiro tried their best to teach me how to play Shogi. Nori had picked up a game for me to take home. With a little tutoring, I hoped I would be able to pick up how to play. I took pictures of the layout and videotaped the moves. With time, I will study it and hopefully be able to play it when we return to Japan.

Shogi Layout

Let's just say, I did pretty well, but I still lost. :)

After we got dressed for the day, We went for a walk to Super Fresh Sato and on the way, we spotted one of the large Portable Shrines that would be pulled through the city the next day. The Kasuga Shrine Festival was supposed to be the biggest shrine festival of the year. At least that's how I understood it to be.

Large Portable Shrine in Sasayama

Large Portable Shrine in Sasayama

Large Portable Shrine in Sasayama

Later that afternoon, we drove to the Tanba Festival.

Tanba Festival

This High School is located smack dab in the middle of the mountains and hills that surround Sasayama City. It was breathtakingly gorgeous.

Tanba Festival

Tanba Festival

And rather cold, too. :)

Tanba Festival

On display and for sale were hand made pottery of all kinds. I wound up picking up a sake cup for my boss, and a couple chopstick rests for a friend. Some items were unbelievably beautiful... and expensive, too. Heh.

Tanba Festival

Tanba Festival

Me...and my shaaaaadow...

(sorry, I couldn't help it.)

Tanba Festival

Tanba Festival

Tanba Festival

We stayed until about 5pm, and the sun was just starting to set behind the hills. It was a beautiful sight. And it definitely had the feeling that fall was here.

Tanba Festival

Tanba Festival Sunset

From there, we drove to Sanda, and went to an Onsen. I don't recall the name of the Onsen, but I will tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed my experience there. My daughter, on the other hand, completely freaked and refused to participate, even though she had been looking forward to it all day. It really wasn't any worse than showering after Gym class. In fact, better. No one was going to snap me with a towel, and no one cared what I looked like. My daughter, being much more self-conscious, couldn't be convinced. I understand her fear, but I feel she lost out on a fantastic experience.

I got to experience the stone bath at first. We got a 1 hour pass for the stone bath, which was like a giant sauna, but you're dressed in a kind of robe and pajama pants. The room was very hot (duh) and you had an assigned space to lay down in. The stone bath was for both men & women, since it was something you had to be clothed for.

The first thing I had to deal with was how to breathe while in the Stone Bath. At first it was difficult, but then I realized if I breathed through my nose, instead of through my mouth, it was much easier to deal with. Laying on the hot stones was okay when I was on my back, but stuck into my ribs when I layed on my stomach. I have never sweated more in my entire life. I could feel the sweat pouring down my face and head. Wow! I wound up drinking 2 bottles of water while I was in there. Though I had to take a break for a few minutes, I was able to stick with it for almost the entire hour.

After that, I went into the public bath area. The men's and women's baths are separate of course. You go into the public bathing area and rinse yourself off with water first. Then you go over to a little area with a faucet and shower head, wash yourself with body wash and shampoo, then rinse off completely. Afterwards, once you are clean, then you go into the hot springs water and just relax. Wow! I loved it. A lot of people equate it as the same experience of the Hot Tub we have in the US, but it's not like that at all. We soaked in the indoor bath for a while, then went outside to the outdoor bath. It was cold and breezy, but the water was so warm, you couldn't tell. We relaxed there for about 15 minutes, just talking and exchanging English/Japanese mini-lessons. Afterwards, we got out, rinsed off, dried off, then got dressed.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Onsen experience. I know it's a strange concept to Americans, but if you're ever in Japan, You Simply HAVE to go to an Onsen! I have never felt more refreshed and relaxed than I was after experiencing the Onsen. I certainly have never felt that way after a bath or shower. I'm definitely making it a point to go back again when we visit Japan next year.

After the Onsen, we went to a Ramen-ya. I ordered the "heavy soup", which they a little worried would be too strong for me. But I loved it, and wound up finishing the entire bowl. It was rather hot at first, but after a bit, I was able to keep from burning my mouth.

After Ramen, we went across the street to another Sushi restaurant. Kuri was it's name. This place was only 100 per plate, and the sushi was a little smaller, but it was still good. They had a beer dispensing machine that was automatic. You get a frosty mug from the fridge next to the machine. Place the mug on the machine, and deposit 400. The machine automatically tilts the mug, fills it with beer, then adds some foam for that nice beer head. Hiro and I were blown away by this device. I want one. ;-)

One of the treats of this particular restaurant was the plate slot at the end of the table. When you're done eating, you slide your plates into the slot and the computer counts your plates. Every 5 plates gave you a chance of winning a price capsule. We won 2 prizes at our table. Again, I probably ate too much sushi, but it was SOOO good!

On the drive home, I wound up napping a little bit in the car. We stayed up for a while after we got back, and just enjoyed some drinking, a little Photo Boot fun on my MacBook and had a great time. But eventually, as all days come to an end, we all went to bed.

Tomorrow: Sunday and the Kasuga Shrine Festival, Monday (our last day) and the trip home.

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11:57 p.m. - 2007-11-13

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