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My inlaws had arranged for us all to go visit an onsen for a couple of days. It`s only taken me ten years to get used to this, but I`m finally warmingto it in all senses of the word.
I was taken to an onsen on my first trip here, and even when living here had many opportunities, but..........I just struggled sitting in bloody hot water, and I mean bloody hot, scalding hot in fact. Ever since the first time, I`ve just had better things to do than sit in 112 degree water on a hot summers day.........like take a cold shower.
Still, it`s a national past time, and over the past couple of years, I have started to adapt, as long as wego in the spring, not summer. So it was off to Himeji for a couple of days. Going to an onsen is an interesting experience, how many times can you take a bath in a single afternoon? We arrived in Himeji at noon and had a two hour wait for the bus, which we spent wandering around looking for somewhere to take lunch. Not the best, but we settled for the open diner under the tracks where you can choose from tako yaki (Octopus balls), yaki soba (fried noodles), Jumbo gyoza and a few others. I plumbed for the tako yaki, my favourite and the wife went for the gyoza, unfortunately, the tako yaki wasn`t exactly th ebest in town and was rather soft and undercooked......... The jumbo gyoza however were surprisingly good.
Finally caught the bus and rode up past mount Shosha (where they filmed parts of The Last Samurai and where I had an interestingstroll with Peter Rehse acouple of years ago) to the onsen. First stop was the swimming pool, which benefits from the same water as the onsen, my son`s first real attempt at swimming despite being almost 6 years old, but he doesn`t like water......I know.... but what can you do....... Fortunately, he thoroughly enjoyed it and wants to go again, so I guess I am signing him up for swimming lessons when we get back.....
From the pool we went straight to the hot baths, male and female are segregated, so it was all boys together. Maybe it`s my English reserve, but all the men walking around buck naked without a care in th eworld just isn`t my idea of fun or relaxation...... Having said that, I was able to immerse myself in the bloody hot water and stay in for 10 mins or so before the old chest started to feel constricted. time to get out and move to the Rotenburo (outside bath). This was much better because the contrasting cool mountain air made it a lot more comfortable.
Eventually we got changed and went for dinner. Everyone usually wears a yukata, but at 6` 2" I can rarely find one that comes below my knees, and today was no exception, so I made do with jeans Dinner was superb, a mix of suki yaki, sashimi and ..........ice cold beer . After finishng mine, and eating left overs from both my father and mother inlaw (why is my belly sticking out?) everyone wanted to go back into the bath, I left them to it........ I went back to our room and crashed on the tatami floor......That bloody jet lag thing, whilst no where near as bad as my last trip, had been playing me about for a couple of days, it was well past 2:00 AM before I went to sleep.....
Wake up, it`s 7 o`clock, time for a quick bath before breakfast. My wife is sitting there smiling ready to go. I manage to drag myself out of bed and wander down to the onsen for a final dunk before brekkie. I do confess that I enjoyed it.
A quick bite to eat before getting ready to catch the only bus of the morning down to Himeji castle ............