Japan has the most volcanoes per square footage of any country so it is easy to find a hot spring, or Onsen in Japanese. Our English Education friends invited Rob and I to Sakakibara Onsen for the freshmen welcome party. Everyone in the department including Teachers went along, for a day and a half of fun. We left on Friday evening and arrived at our hotel in time for dinner. The dinner was traditional Japanese. You sit on the floor with a little seat cushion and your tray stands about 6 inches tall in front of you. Sitting indian style and eating with chopsticks isn’t very easy, as I learned at this dinner. They serve about 6 or 7 different small dishes over the period of about an hour. I didn’t think I was going to make it sitting on the floor the entire time, but I managed. I had about 4 different kinds of raw fish, and tons of different things of which I could not recognize the taste or the look. Overall, the food was delicious, and I was stuffed. The biggest meal I have had since coming to Japan.
Afterwards, there was a drinking party. They party a little different here for sure. First of all. You get randomly placed in a small circle around a bunch of beers and bags of snacks. You drink and socialized with your group until everyone starts to get drunk, and that is extremely quick for the group we were with. Then, you go about talking to everyone and drinking, while everyone goes up and does some kind of karaoke. It felt a bit corny at first, but it was really fun. Everyone was pouring me drinks and asking lots of questions. During the party, I ended up having a good conversation with one of the professors who teaches English, and he told us all kinds of good jokes. The students and the professors were all hammered after a while. It was really nice that everyone we hadn’t met yet wanted to meet us, so all night I made many new friends. At about 3 A.M. the party started dying down, and everyone headed to the Onsen. Now, before I write about what the Onsen was like, let me first describe what I perceived it to be at the time I was invited. I was way off.
I thought it was going to be like a natural hot tub, where you hang out all night drinking and snacking. Then I learned that there eating and drinking in the Onsen are not allowed, and that you do this nude. So I’m thinking that 50 people, guys and girls, are going to sit around naked in a pool of hot water. It didn’t make any sense to me, and I thought it very strange, but once we actually got there it was a little more normal than I thought. We head down to the Onsen. I quickly learn that guys and girls are separate because there were no girls in sight once we went there. Here is how it works. You strip down in a locker room and get a small towel cover up. Then you go and shower, cleaning yourself as good as you can before you get into the water. They don’t want the water to get dirty, so thats why you shower first. Then you get in…thats it. It’s usually divided into small rooms, so only a few people are with you. It is extremely hot water with a strange slick feel to it. I could only spend 30 minutes in there, then it became to hot. I dried off then went to bed.
I was wakened extremely early by a woman who just walked into our room and made us go eat breakfast. This is when I discovered how terrible Japanese breakfasts are. They eat the same foods for all meals, so I had rice, raw fish, and tofu for breakfast. Awful. We headed back to campus after breakfast, and the trip was over. A really good experience all around.