Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Beautiful Iwate gets hot!

August appears to have thrown its worst at us here in Iwate in terms of weather. Last week there were a couple of rather sticky nights where sleep was difficult to impossible. Although it’s still hot in the days all of a sudden the nights have cooled down which is obviously a mercy. Last week was a very busy week, first back at school.
Beautiful Iwate.

Then on the weekend we visited an onsen on Saturday and then on Sunday went to a concert by my school’s incredibly talented brass band!
I have never been to an onsen before. I was tempted to go to a public bath back in 2004 when I visited Hungary, and there have been many places where hot springs/baths/onsens have been very popular. In the ex-Soviet states hot baths or banyas are widespread and enjoyed by many. When I visited the remote settlement in Kyrgyzstan they had access to hot springs there, and there was bath in a shed fed by the hot springs, but I have to be honest, it never really interested me enough, especially in the cold!
But they say you should try everything once, right? What? Wrong? Nevertheless we hopped in the car and drove out somewhere between 20 to 30 kilometres from Ichinoseki. It’s name? Kurotaki Onsen.  The drive was windy, but beautiful. The greens out in the rice fields are very striking at this time of the year and I was taken by just how beautiful this area which has been my home now for 1.5 years. You only have to get 5 kilometres out of the city and it becomes apparent, especially if you head down the right road.
The onsen well, it’s a big bath. You enter the change rooms connected to the bath. The bath was quite big and around 43-44 degrees celcius or so it claimed. There was a piping hot sauna – only big enough for two, a cold bath and showers and stools around the rest of the walls. A section of the bath was devoted to a ‘pulse bath’, some sort of electric current you can sit in the middle of. And I tried it – it felt very strange!

I couldn’t stay in the bath for more than a few minutes, it was just too hot! I braved the sauna a couple of times – 30 seconds a pop. I’m not sure how hot it was in there, the thermometer said 90 degrees but that couldn’t be right, could it? I would think 60-70 degrees. Probably shouldn’t go in the sauna alone though, with no-one directly outside. I felt close to passing out and I might have woken up cooked!
After that was pretty much done. I used the shower as five or six men entered from nowhere. I had had the facilities to myself for the first thirty minutes. 
Ice Cream stop!
There was a relaxation room too and I took a little nap. We drove back as the sun set around the hills and rice fields which were truly amazing. There’s even a few flowers here and there. We stopped for some nice ice cream too, it has to be done!

Sunday saw us watch the brass band concert in Fujisawa. For a small town they have an excellent culture centre with quite a decent concert hall. Who’d a thunk it? The band really is excellent, they went to the school brass band finals in Morioka not that long ago. The weekend finished with me being one tired boy! But I’d had a good weekend. Pity I didn’t get to the beer festival going on in Ichinoseki!

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