There is a typhoon moving north through Japan this week and it’s the only thing on tv. It’s kind of like our blizzard warnings, when the National Weather Service interrupts every channel to tell you how horrible it’s going to be. Apparently typhoons are just like blizzards in that forecasters are kind of guessing. School had been cancelled today in anticipation of horrible rain and winds in our area, but we only had steady rain last night and the sun is out this morning.
We ate dinner last night in someone’s living room. This town is so small that some restaurants are a room in someone’s house. We could see the woman making our chicken in the kitchen and I assume it was her husband who went down the street to a vending machine to get our Cokes.
After dinner, we soaked in the town’s onsen hot springs. There are 9 and the ryokan’s owners left a key and map in our room. The onsens are for the private use of the residents and their guests. According to tradition, we had yukatas and geta in our room for us to wear while visiting the baths. A yukata is a lightweight robe and geta look like platform wooden flip flops. The yukata was very comfortable but the geta were horrible!
Each onsen is divided into men and women. Each side has an outer room with benches and lockers. Some also have an area for bathing with mirrors, stools, small buckets, and hand showers. Fancier onsens have shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap, cotton balls, hair dryers, q-tips, and more. The hot spring tub is not for bathing, only soaking and relaxing, so you’re supposed to bathe before you get in. I felt kind of self-conscious hanging out with naked Japanese women at first, but I got used to it pretty quickly during our 2 week trip. It seems to be a social thing since most women came with friends or family.
Each onsen is fed by natural hot springs on this volcanic island. In Shibu, each pool has different minerals that can help various ailments. The springs vary in temperature and top out around 130 degrees. You turn on the cold water tap and mix it with the hot spring water to your desired temperature. The water below looks dirty, but it’s actually minerals that make it cloudy. Businesses also leave eggs outside to cook in the hot spring water.