And so, the Nasu Saga continues.
After spending about an hour and a half at the Seiji Fujishiro Museum, we had lunch at a buffet and stuffed our faces with delicious tempura, lasagna, Japanese pizza, and sweet potato ice cream. There were other things, but that’s what I remember most.
Then, the onsen.
In Asia, there’s this thing called a public bath, and after a little bit of research, I learned that there are two main types:
While a sentō is just a regular bath house with pools filled with heated tap water, an onsen is filled with both regular pools as well as natural hot springs. NATURAL HOT SPRINGS. Can’t you just feel your health meter rise dramatically after reading that? I sure can.
Our onsen escapade began by first picking out a locker for our outdoor shoes. Keeping your shoes separated is super important here. It’s also important to line your shoes up neatly when you enter a house or a school – it’s actually a tenet of good community health here in Tamura.
Then we separated to change.
The men’s locker room was on the bottom floor, and the women’s on the second. (I must also add that everyone in the women’s locker room was naked. I confirmed with Caleb that it was the same way in his locker room.)
Not only did this onsen have pools and hot springs, but it also had a public pool that we were able to swim in. We spent about half an hour swimming together and having fun before we entered into the hot springs. There was even a lazy river.
After the pool, our team separated once again, not before barely dodging a confused old man that thought the door to the pool was the entrance to the hot springs. Maybe he wasn’t confused and just wanted to go skinny dipping? I’m not entirely sure, but we won’t dwell upon it.
Before our trip, we were told specifically to bring a bathing suit for the pool and two towels: a bath towel for the pool, and a hand towel for the hot springs.
A hand towel….
The first step to entering in the hot springs is to get naked, and to somehow use your hand towel to cover any parts you don’t want exposed.
Spoiler Alert: a hand towel only covers a square inch of skin.
The second step to entering the hot springs is to take a shower. After you undress in the locker room, you walk into the main bath area, where there are small showering stations. Each station is equipped with a shower head, a plastic bath stool to sit on, a mirror, shampoo & conditioner, and disposable combs.
After taking a long shower and using as much shampoo as my heart desired, me and two of the girls on the team went into the hot springs. This onsen had sulphur hot springs, and varied in temperature – one was too hot to stay in for long periods of time. One of the pools that we went in had apples floating in it, which boosted the ambiance to the next level, and also smelled exceptionally delicious. I rubbed some of the apples on my skin to see if it would mask the smell of the sulphur, but alas…I still smelled like eggs. The women’s bath also included a sauna-type room with a special salt block that made my skin extra soft.
Overall, going to the onsen was one of the best experiences we’ve had in Japan so far. I’ll admit, the thought of baring all in front of people I work with (and also a few Japanese strangers) was a bit intimidating, but in the end, it wasn’t as weird as I had anticipated.
Looking back, here are some pros and cons to the onsen:
- NATURAL HOT SPRINGS THAT HELP BALANCE YOUR PH LEVELS. Also, a salt block that literally makes your skin as soft as a baby’s bottom.
- You’re naked and free, and your co-workers aren’t going to think of you any differently because they’re naked too.
- It’s something you won’t easily find in America, so you don’t take it for granted.
- You can use AS MUCH SHAMPOO AS YOU WANT. There might be an unspoken rule on shampoo usage, but I’m American, so it’s okay, right?
- You’re naked around strangers, and possibly co-workers.
- You might feel guilty about all of the donuts that you consumed earlier that week.
- You can’t eat the fruit that’s floating in the water.
- You might smell like sulpher at the end of the day.
If you ever find yourself in Japan, go to an onsen; it’s worth every embarrassing feeling. You’ll get over it quickly, I promise. 😉
After the onsen, we took a cable car to the top of Mt. Nasudake which was located in Nikko National Park (our first National Park in Japan!!). There was a great view and even a cute dog.
We ended the day with free cricket samples:
Nasu = 10/10 stars