Published: April 3rd 2012April 2nd 2012
I am actually partway though writing a proper, chronological blog entry, but I felt the need to interrupt my regular (if sporadic) musings to share one of my New Favourite Things.
If you have lived with me, or known me in certain contexts, you will probably know that I like baths. Imagine my joy at learning that there was a traditional Japanese bath in the hostel I was staying! Imagine my disappointment and disgust when I learned that it was for MEN ONLY. I could shower if I wanted, but would have to pay. That was my third worst accomodation experience since leaving New Zealand, fourth if you count the plane trip over.
Osaka redeemed itself by providing me with a bath at my next hostel. It was a bit scary the first time; there are all sorts of rules about being completely starkers, washing thouroughly before you get in etc. etc. but the presence of a BIG hot tub of water just waiting for me to spread out in was enough to overcome my paranoia that everyone was staring at me (I later decided that it was not just paranoia when a group of children stopped to stare at me getting changed at a swimming pool; it is only now that we have got to Tokyo that I have seen other western women around with enough frequency to stop feeling like I might be the only one in the city).
The next bath I used was pretty cool. It was on Naoshima, a tiny island (around 10km across, probably) known for its art installations that are scattered between galleries, museums (including an odd James Bond one), temples, and beautiful scenery. The bathhouse itself was an art piece, with a giant elephant separating the men's and women's bathing areas as well as paintings and other arty things about.
The best bath by far though, was the Hoheikyo hotspring, located in the mountainous outskirts of Sapporo (in the wild north). The bath is a natural hotspring and has GEORGEOUS little pools where one can lie, draped across some smooth rocks, inches from snow but soaking in steamy, mineral-rich waters. We timed it right so I managed to watch the sunset through the trees on the surrounding tundra.
Ahhh it was amazing. Cameras were banned for obvious reasons but if anyone wants to see them I took a billion pictures whenever I saw snow and got excited. Incidentally, touch screen cameras are a terrible idea in temperatures below zero.