Sunday, September 11, 2011

A day's drive

Yesterday, Tetsu and I went out with our new car and our new GPS and enjoyed the day. The new car is great! The new GPS... well, I'm not sure it solved the problem of getting lost but we got lost LESS than usual.

First stop at 7:00 for breakfast. At a Beef Bowl place that has a breakfast menu. How would you like to join us for rice, pickles, grilled salmon, miso soup and a dish of simmered beef? (Except for the meat, this is a pretty traditional Japanese breakfast.)

Thus fortified, off we went with the GPS directing us to roads we had no intention of using. But we made it to Nasu, the resort area where we sometimes visit. Nasu is in a lovely mountain area trying to retain it's natural look while drawing tourists to its many hot springs, Bed and Breakfast places, shops and places of interest. 7/Eleven and other chain restaurants and convenience stores are there but they try to tame down their neon lights and blend into the scenery (not very well). I thought the 7/Eleven sign, usually in orange and green, was interesting all in "Woody Brown".

Tetsu had four places picked out for us to explore yesterday. NOW we want the GPS to direct us! Unfortunately Tetsu had gotten the name of the first place wrong so we bypassed the first GPS directed area and went looking for the second.

The second area we wanted to go to was a newly built nature park complete with guides and nature trails traversing the mountains. Unfortunately it was so newly built that our GPS didn't have it registered or something. Anyway, the park never showed up on the screen so we were left with asking people on the streets...

On the way to the park, we stumbled on to the third place we wanted to go anyway, so Tetsu got to cross that one off his list. The area we were in was famous for it's sulfur hot springs and sure enough the air had a distinct rotten egg smell to it that is not unpleasant when you know it is due to the sulfur and not to something you've left too long in the refrigerator. The ground was dry and rocky but in the distance there seemed to be pink "flowers blooming". WRONG! Those aren't flowers!

A whole multitude of stone statues all adorned with crocheted bibs and frilly hats! The newer attire was still a bright red but the older attire had faded to different shades of pink. Interesting! I could only wonder what women's group spends years and years crocheting outfits for the stone statues in such abundance.

(Actually, stone statues often have sewn bibs or capes but I assumed one devoted person would yearly make a new outfit. I've never seen so many fancily dressed stone statues at one time!)

I don't know why there were coins on the statues' heads. Maybe a fairground like attraction like

"Throw a coin and if it lands on a head you win a prize."

The prize being good luck? It was interesting to see how the sulfur air had tarnished and eroded the older coins...

Not using our GPS we stumbled upon the first destination Tetsu had sought and he could cross that off his list too. This was a suspension bridge that led to more trails. Tetsu does not like heights so we got off of the bridge as soon as possible.

We found the nature park without any help from the GPS either and did a bit of hiking. My knee works just like I never had any problems, praise the Lord!

And the last place Tetsu wanted to go to was a hot spring that has a 1300 year history. Here again, the air had the sulfur smell and even the river was hot and white and murky. Tetsu and I parted at the entrance and went into the men/women's sections accordingly.

Hot, dark, pungent aroma. This isn't like any hot spring I've ever been to before! Women sitting around the 5 or 6 different wooden baths with towels on their heads. Occasionally someone would lower themselves into one of the tubs. With no one to ask about bathing procedures I fumbled with the darkly stained hand written Japanese signs in the shadows.

"Do not lie down as noxious gases may have settled"

"Bathe before getting into the tubs" (That's a normal sign.)

"Do not use soap or shampoo when bathing" (Well, that's conflicting instruction!)

"Soak in tub for 2 or 3 minutes, then rest outside of tub for 5 minutes. Repeat as needed. Too much soaking may result in health issues" (And this is supposed to be good for you?"

I pretended to bathe (without soap or shampoo) and chose a white steaming pool to lower myself into. "

Wow! Hot! Okay, I'm done!" but since I'd barely got there I again pretended like I knew what I was doing and gave myself 10 minutes to sit around the tub before I could get dressed and leave without looking like a complete hot spring amateur!

When Tetsu met me back outside 30 minutes later he was in seventh heaven.

"That was absolutely the best hot spring I have ever been to! You really can FEEL like that hot water is steaming a person back to health."

(Sometimes I don't understand my husband even when I understand the words he's saying.)

"Have you ever been in such hot water before? The sign said that one of the tubs was 48 degrees!" (That's 118 in Fahrenheit! I'm glad I missed that sign.)

"All the men made sounds of approval every time someone went into the hottest tub. It was like a masculine initiation or something! Who was going to try next? Who was going to able to stay in the longest? I could hear my heart pounding!"

(Tetsu, are you crazy? That's not a health treatment! That's a way to work yourself into a heart attack!)

If we lived any closer Tetsu would want to go everyday. I enjoy the foot bath more... thank you anyway. Who ever heard of having to have instructions for taking a bath!

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