Monday, December 18, 2006

One of Japan's best things...

Today we continued Hannah's introduction to Japanese culture by going to one of my favorite places. I discovered it after having an argument with my husband and needing a place to just relax for a few minutes. It served its purpose more than adequately and has been a favorite place to go to ever since.
Of course what I am talking about is one of the Japanese hot spring baths, or "onsen". This one is up in the mountains and has an inside bath as well as many different outside ones, including a cave, a waterfall and a head rest! The main difference between New Zealand hotsprings and Japanese ones is that here you have to take all your clothes off before you get in. You can use a little towel to hide some of your important "bits" if you want to and they are usually separated into male and female baths, but it definately takes a little bit of getting used to. My first introduction was when I first came to Japan and went on a trip with the teachers.... nothing like really getting to know your new co-workers! Now that I am used to it I find it is a great way to relax and I don't think anyone takes any notice at all of the other bodies in the bath with them (mind you I take my glasses off before I get in so I can't actually see if everyone is staring or not!).
One word of warning though - the hot springs are often up to about 42 degrees so if you sit in them for too long without moving you are likely to get a little light headed when you get out. In worst cases you may even faint in front of the toilet before you manage to get your trousers on. This may be a little embarrasing - especially if you are being taken there by a host family.... something that I know from personal experience!
In Japan it is also very common for children to take a bath with their parents and it is usually the father who does this. I know that if this happened in New Zealand there may be many questions asked if the child went to school and told their teachers etc., but here it is simply a way for parents to talk with their children while getting the job of getting them clean done. This is one part of the Japanese lifestyle that I really like and sometimes wish it could be a more natural thing in New Zealand too.

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