My First Onsen

Position: Alongside Sato Ne
Wind: North F4 moderate breeze
Weather: mostly sunny, cool

This morning I did a bit of study. I am quite enjoying the philosophy unit thus far. It would appear to have an interesting mix of people, a couple of whom are obviously very smart, so I suspect they will keep me on my toes. On the more down to earth side of life, with the sun shining, I did a spot of painting. Then, for most of the afternoon, I sat at the computer putting in an online application for a US visa, which I want to complete while in Fukuoka as there is a US consulate there.

By the time I had finished this chore it was too late to go for a hike, so I decided I would check out the onsen at the local hotel instead. An onsen is a hot spring heated by natural volcanic activity, but the term is also synonymous with a public bath house which uses the spring.   Presumably the local hotel had been built over such a spring.  I had never been to one before so it took a little courage to venture out and try it. I had asked about it at the hotel's reception desk on Tuesday, but could not make myself understood. This afternoon I prepared myself a little better by using Google to translate “Is the onsen open to the public?” into Japanese. This is what it came up with: “一般に公開さ温泉オープンですか?”. I printed it out, packed a towel in my backpack and trotted off to the big white hotel. I showed my piece of paper to the receptionist and he immediately understood what was written. Amazing when you think about it. We are truly living in a world that is the science fiction of my youth – getting on a bit I guess.

I had also written out “Is there a coin laundry in town?” First the receptionist showed me the coin operated laundry right there in the hotel close by the lobby, then he took me over to the counter for the onsen where I paid the 330 yen admission, and showed me the procedure for taking a public bath. Most importantly he showed me that the men's section was on the left. Inside there is a foyer where you take your shoes off, then you go into the change room, strip off and place all your belongings into a basket, then through the doors into the bath house itself. This particular onsen had two pools, one hot and one cold, and the hot pool was split into an indoor bath and an outdoor bath. I tried both. The water in the hot pool was steaming. A pipe form the wall poured water into the pool about every minute or so, which simply flowed over the rim and out onto the tile floor, and presumably away into some drains somewhere. Around the walls were shower stations. Each had a little plastic stool beside it, and I gathered that the idea was that you would go to one of the showers, sit on the stool, lather up with the shampoo and body gel provided, rinse off and then enter the the pool. The water was indeed very hot. I lowered myself slowly in allowing my body to adjust to the temperature. The water had only a mild scent of sulphur, which I could only detect it when I held my nose very close to the water's surface, though the wall where the water poured out was stained a dull yellow. I finished off my bath by pouring some cold water from the cold pool over me to freshen up. It was indeed very relaxing, much the same effect as a sauna. Afterwards I wandered around the streets for a bit feeling very clean and quite mellow.

Back on board, for dinner I cooked up another stir fry, consuming a bit more of the unknown green stuff given to me by yesterday's scooter borne anonymous benefactor. I tried a different bunch of greenery this time, and had equal success with it, adding a nice flavour to the meal. Unfortunately I think I might only get one more meal from it before the herbs wilt and become inedible. Not to worry, I haven't met my local girlfriend yet, so, being Friday, maybe tomorrow I will eat out.

All is well.