Saturday, April 12, 2008

Up to Our Necks in Hot Water - part two

The entire trip up the mountain Logan had been playing his favorite mountain climbing game; train. Today we were pretending to be freight trains. Logan was wheeling around the area in front of the temple and coupling and uncoupling his imaginary freight. He was having a great time. But every train needs to take on fuel. We decided to eat some lunch on the park benches here. Fueled up we were ready to head back down and move to the next stage of the plan.

The last time we climbed a mountain Logan decided that he could climb up, but needed to be carried down the hill. Today he decided that he would not only go down under his own power, he would allow gravity to assist him. We descended that hill as two careening, out of control run away freight trains. He was not content to simply walk down, we had to run. We held hands and with a giddy laugh of joy set off burning a path down the hillside. We could hear the sounds of others who were on the path with us as they giggled and laughed as we flew past. And fly he did. It is lucky that we were holding hands because there were moments when Logan’s feet were not touching the ground. My feet were providing stability for both of us as we whipped around corners and his feet began to lift off the ground and helicopter out. We made it back to the temple of the tall trees where we decided to rest and wait for Jenny to make her way to join us.

The rest of the way off the mountain went by smoothly. I did have to restrain my little freight train, who had now changed to an express passenger train due to a personality conflict with his mommy. Logan had insisted that Jenny be a freight truck, but she stated that she was a super express passenger train. Well Logan wanted to be one too, so he changed. I was left to be the only freight train in town.

We walked up the main street in town toward the onsen. The street had no sidewalk. We were left to stroll on the shoulder of the road with cars whizzing by our elbows. I popped Logan up onto my shoulders and we trudged onward to find the big outdoor bathtub. We walked so far and so long in such a tiny little town that I was afraid that we missed the entrance we needed. Just when I was about to give in to despair we saw the sign signaling the entrance.

We crossed over a bridge leading into the onsen. We were not really sure what to expect at this point. This was going to be our first time bathing in public. Were we ready for this? We had no idea what lay ahead beyond the noren of the changing room. We could be walking straight into a mixed gender bath. Our research led us to believe that it was more than likely going to be segregated by gender, but there would be only one way to find out for sure.

We paid the entrance fee by purchasing tickets from a vending machine. We had to pay the entrance fee, rent a bath towel, and buy a small hand towel, called a modesty towel by some. We handed the tickets for all of our items to the man standing in the booth right next to the vending machine. He handed us our towels, and we set off to climb the stairs and meet our fate. Our fears were subdued when we saw the entrance. There was a bath for men and a separate one for women. Logan and I went in the men’s while Jenny entered the women’s area.

This is when the research started to pay off. Once inside I could see that there was lots of activity. Two distinct bathing areas were evident. One outside, the other was located inside the building. We only purchased tickets to use the outdoor facility so after changing out of our clothes and donning our modesty towels, Logan and I ventured out to bathe.

The first step in taking a bath lies not in getting used to the scalding hot temperature of the water, but in getting clean. That’s correct; in order to take a bath one must be clean. Logan and I walked over to the showers and took a seat on a stool to wash our bodies. After lathering up and rinsing off we were ready to slide into the hot water. It is truly an unusual experience to walk around outdoors under the blue sky while wearing no clothes. Logan and I slowly and carefully lowered ourselves into the naturally hot sulfured water and let the warmth sooth our tired muscles.

Sitting in that hot water pulled the tiredness out of my muscles and left me feeling relaxed. I looked up at the few clouds in the blue sky and talked with my son. We discussed how nice the water felt and how much fun it had been to fun down the mountain being trains. We sat in that bath and quietly reflected on our day. Alas all good things must come to an end, and Logan wanted to get out of the too hot water.

Logan and I dressed and went out to wait for Jenny. We did not have to wait long for her to join us. She came out and we all headed down the few steps to the rest station. There were four benches and two vending machines filled with refreshing beverages. We decided that we should just relax a moment and get something to drink before heading back to the train. Logan decided to have an apple juice, Jenny got a tea, and if you guessed that I got a beer then you are correct. One of the two vending machines dispensed beer to round out the enjoyable experience of sitting in a hot bath. We sat and drank our liquid enjoyment knowing that soon we would board the train and head home. Our day was complete.

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