Thursday, 12 January 2012

My Japan Story Part 4: Western Honshu and the awkwardness of Onsen

Takayama is a little peaceful town that visitors used as a base to scale the Japanese Alps during winter. It is also famous for its onsens ( Japanese word for hot spring). My friend and I decided to try out the onsen, so off we went to one in the Takayama. I can’t remember its name.

The onsen is a communal bathing place usually divided into sections for male and female. Everyone that went it there will usually be naked and this posed a problem for the three of us. In our culture, being naked infront of another person is a taboo. None of us want to see the other naked. We came up with various ideas like taking turns to go in and etc. At the locker, we were so hesitating to take off our clothes.
I remember we were given a piece of cloth for us to scrub ourselves. I even joked that the cloth is not enough to cover any part except to cover the eyes. After about 25 minutes in the locker, the temptation of soaking ourselves inside the hot water was so great that we just took off our clothes and we in. We had a very good time in there and actually it is addictive.
 Bird eye view of Shirakawa village.

The next day we went to Shirakawa, a little village famous for houses build with grass roofs. We climbed up a little hill to have a bird eye view of the whole village and it was picturesque. Memories of childhood cartoons came in mind just as when I visited Europe and its charming houses. In Shirakawa, while waiting for the bus to take us back to Takayama, we went to an onsen again. This time, no more shyness among us because the feeling of it was so good. Throughout the visit, we enjoyed many more onsens.
Mt Fuji without its snow capped top.

Visit to Japan will not be complete without visit to the majestic Mount Fuji and it needs no further introduction. We were at the foot of Mt Fuji for one night, putting up at a very nice Ryokan at Kawaguchi. As it was summer when we were there, the snow on top of Mt Fuji melted. It was a bad sight and the photos that we took, when we show it to friends, they asked “is this Mt Fuji”. I hope on my next visit, I will get a nice one.
From there we went on to Tokyo. One of the places we went to in Tokyo was the Yasakuni Shrine. I just wanted to see for myself the world famous shrine and what is in it. I thought it must be a grand thing but I was disappointed. It was just a normal shrine except that it enshrined those who died during WW II and 9 class A war criminals. It is just a symbolical place. Whoever leader that choose to visit the place, just let them be. It is also something of the past.
Finally, I am going to write about Nikko. It is said that Nikko is Japan and Japan is Nikko. The place has many Buddhist shrines and nice onsens but the most popular place in Nikko is the shrine of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the man who united feudal Japan. The cedar trees lining up to the shrine was opulent while the sprawling complex is so big and its buildings so majestic. It is a must visit place when you are in Japan. But what I like most in Nikko is the Shinkyo Bridge spanning the Daiya River.
Next, Hokkaido.
Shinkyo Bridge.

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