Arima Onsen and Mata Ne, Japan

November 22, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

It’s been an excellent two weeks and I fly home tomorrow. The flights start in the afternoon so I’ll have time for a leisurely breakfast and not much else. I get back to Boston at 5:00pm. Flying back in time, It will be quite a long day. I’m so excited to see the people I love and practice yoga again, but I’m also a little sad about leaving Japan. I’m just starting to “get it” and be comfortable here. Also, I really like Japanese culture.

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Yesterday was a great day. I had a meeting in the morning that was so fun and successful. I met with two men from a real estate management company. The meeting lasted an hour and a half. We discussed the US election for a while, then the expatriate real estate market, then we talked about differences between culture in the US and Japan and talked a lot about toilets. The men were shocked we don’t have “shower toilets” in the United States. After that I visited two Sake breweries near the meeting and had lunch at one of them. I got some Sake to share on Thanksgiving, and then worked in the Sannomiya area. Dinner was linguini with shrimps and olive oil at the hotel, and a cocktail of plum wine and ginger ale.

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This morning I finished work and had a lunch meeting. Then I took to the bus to Arima, outside the main city closer to the Rokko Mountains, to visit an onsen. An onsen is a Japanese public bath. Like shower toilets, plums, bowing, taking off shoes, and formal exchange of business cards, public baths are also a big deal in Japan. I’m so glad I went.

This is what happens in the public bath (for women) — take off your shoes, drop off your clothes, take a shower at one of the stations, clean off your station (and little chair), put up your hair so it doesn’t get in the bath, then go soak. This one in Arima is special because there’s a hot spring bath. They had a regular bath, a “white ion” bath with extra oxygen bubbles, a hot spring bath that was golden (brown), an open air area which is great because the hot water feels extra nice against the cold air, cold showers, and a sauna. There are no bathing suits allowed, everyone is naked but they separate the baths for men and women!

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I stayed there a long time, relaxing, skinny dipping in the hot spring. It wasn’t crowded, just a few people. They have a changing area and very high tech massage chairs that squeeze your legs for after you get dressed. Reading about Onsen before the trip, someone wrote that it’s nice to take off what separates us (the clothing) and focus on what makes us the same. After the bath I felt very renewed. Soft from all the sauna and hot springs, and very happy about being a human and a woman! I think public baths are very good for community building. If you go to Japan I’d highly recommend this experience.

Hope you are well!

Love, Annie

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