I’ve watched a lot of them Japanese anime – my hands down favorite being Sailormoon. I admit it with pride and joy. Since 2nd or 3rd grade until 6th grade, I did nothing but stalk Sailormoon and watch Usagi Tsukino save the world in thigh high red boots and impossible-to-manage pigtails.
After Sailormoon, there was Yuyu Hakusho and Fushigi Yugi in high school. Overall, it was a fascination with Japanese everyday life – not the supernatural, paranormal activity but the day to day lives of long-ago and modern day Japan.
And for one night, just one night, I was able to live out that life in a traditional Japanese Ryokan. This very night, in the quiet region of Hakone, we checked into the Hakone Grand Villa and went back into time!
The Happy Meal and I were shrieking as soon as we opened the door – because immediately, that “leave your shoes here and get bedroom slippers” thing was there and we changed. *kilig*
We rushed to see the traditional style bathroom that had a teeny tiny wash area and a teeny tiny bathtub. *kilig*
We ran to the rooms – we had two – and they all featured tatami mats. No beds. I slid open the closet to find our beds nicely rolled up and ready to be set for the night. *kilig*
We spun around in the modern style living room and dining room. ZeFolks would be appreciative of the modern touch that they don’t have to be on the floor the entire time.
We excitedly changed into our yukatas (summer kimonos) that we are supposed to put on for our traditional style dinner that night.
The dinner experience will have a post of its own altogether so stand by for that.
We also discovered while wandering around the grounds of the hotel/resort/villa, that they have a traditional style onsen – this means to the uninitiated, a public bath. Are you getting excited now?
Several reactions plague me on the thought of using an onsen for the first time: eyebrows raised, head tilted to the side, how, where, when.
Eventually, the ryokan experience marked me for life. I want one. I really do. I love being able to sleep in thick covers while the frosty wind swept up the mountainside. I love dipping into effing hot water and just sit there – contemplating about life, the universe and what outfit I’m going to wear tomorrow. I love the minimalist effort with having just the mats and 1 short table in a bedroom. I love the discipline it takes to keep a traditional Japanese house – do you put away your entire bed in the closet every single morning? I myself, usually just roll out of bed and leave it be until I get back in the night (or that after-lunch siesta).
It’s something that you should go through definitely – if you have the budget for it. It’s really worth it, I think – even with just the dinner and the onsen.
HOW TO USE AN ONSEN LIKE A BOSS:
Walk to the onsen in just your robe. No undies.
Get rid of your robe and sit at one of the low shower stalls. Sit on the tiny stool and start a-scrubbing every bit of your manly and girly parts. Shampoo as well.
Towel off and return the stool and shower head to where you got it.
Use the small hand towel and bring it with you to the bath. It’s supposed to be used as you get into the bath by covering your private bits but making sure that you don’t get it wet as you slowly get into the bath.
The bath is at a very HOT 40 degrees Celsius ballpark. I don’t know about you but I’m not used to having very hot baths, usually, I just have it slightly warm and I’m good. So, ease yourself into the bath. Utter Hail Mary’s for every step, if you have to.
Since the temps are a little too hot for teeny tiny people, you want to rethink taking your Happy Meal with you. I did and just left her snoozing on her comfy little bed.
ONSEN DO’s and DON’Ts
DO shower before getting into the bath
DO use the small towel to cover yourself up as you get into the bath
DO NOT get the towel wet, if you do, wring it OUTSIDE the bath (wringing the towel into the bath is deemed dirty)
DO NOT use the towel on yourself (think scrub-a-dud-dub with the armpits and ears) just fold it and keep it on your head
DO stay as short or as long as you want
DO NOT bring a camera or mobile phone to any part of the onsen.
DO use the time in the bath to think about your life, the universe and how you can make a difference to the world. That’s what the Japanese do.