Okay so I guess I should title this post with Day 5.5 to 6, since it does technically still take place in the fifth day… ugh why do I even care to explain, this is a horrible way to start this post, I should really just quit while I am ahead, I am digging myself further into a hole, what am I doing.
Well we got on the shuttle from Minobu station and we were sharing the shuttle with a European family, I mean they were really super European. The dad had the typical Jason Statham buzzcut, it’s weird how that’s so popular in Europe? And the mother had the short, curved at the tips haircut. Sounds so stereotypical, but I swear it’s popular hairstyles in Europe. I could not for the life of me decipher what language they were speaking, my best guess would be destuche, but I usually can recognize what that sounds like, and it was a bit different from what I know to be. I felt like such an American for not knowing the language they were speaking because I bet you 100 bucks they knew we were American.
The drive to the hotel was around an hour from the train station, and it was a beautiful ride to see rural Japan and its small mountain towns. I wanted to take pictures but I was on zero battery life on both my camera and phone, again, millennial problems. But I’ll put some pictures I took later when we left the hotel.
I was surprised I wasn’t falling asleep on the ride over there, I was nearly running on empty with lack of food since the dinner the night before and climbing up and down a fucking mountain. The drive was through winding roads that were incredibly narrow and one laned at some parts; that doesn’t sound like a big deal but it’s actually a two lane that go opposite directions, so the driver had to pull over in a safe spot to let the oncoming car go pass. I wasn’t driving, but I feeling a bit nervous during some of those stops. The roads reminded me of my time I lived in Germany as a child when we would travel through the mountain roads to get to various Air Force bases there; the roads were also narrow and surrounded by greenery.
We finally reach the hotel, and it is g o r g e o u s. It is called Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan (in case you didn’t understand the title, onsen stands for bathouse) and it’s on the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest hotel in the world. Open since 705 AD with the same family running it for generations and supplied with a constant stream of natural water from a hot springs. Obviously, we had to check this out, despite the planes, trains, and automobiles travel to it.
We were greeted by two Japanese hostesses, and they were dressed up very formally, kimonos and all. I wouldn’t have expected anything else. The entrance had a shoe rack area; if you aren’t familiar with Japanese culture, you usually have to take off your shoes every time you enter a home or business. Good rule of thumb is that if there is a raised area near the entrance, that’s a good visual cue to take of your shoes. They had some slippers for us to put on once we took off our boots and a little area to put our bags. And cheeseandrice, it was so nice to take off my boots. Keep in mind I’ve had the same boots on for around 13 hours or so straight, I hadn’t taken them off since I left the Mountain Hut on Mount Fuji the night before. My feet were probably stinky af, but I was too exhausted to care. The slippers they provided for us were two sizes too small for our big American feet, so we were waddling to the waiting area. Again, I did not give a shit, I was relieved I wasn’t currently hauling my ass up and down a literal mountain. They had this delicious honey lemonade for us to drink as we waited for the hostess to get us ready for our room. We noticed that the hostess would carry the baggage to the European family and then quickly realized that this tiny women would have to carry our baggage, which we quickly offered to take the bags from her. But she ended up grabbing the bags and struggled to make her way over to us. We would have rushed to her, but the small slippers impeded our movement, so we stood awkwardly as she awkwardly brought her bags to us.
They lead us to our room, and it’s is so authentically Japanese, I would describe it as luxurious authenticity. On side of the sliding door to our room, they had my name, it made me feel really welcome and special:
The symbol next to my name stands for “sama” so it’s kinda like “Mr.” in Japanese, a very formal and honorific term.
Look how fucking kawaii (cute) this room is! This was by far my favorite lodging of the trip. And outside on the balcony was just as sugoi (amazing) as the inside. You can hear the rushing of the fresh water from the mountain hot springs near by.
The hostess that brought us to the room spoke a little english, enough to get by and showed us a map of the hotel, where the baths were and how there are private baths where you can lock the door behind you and exclusive male and female public baths. The exclusive gendered ones would switch back and forth depending on the time so you could eventually enjoy both. A fleeting thought went through my head about third, fourth, or other genders, but that was quickly gone as we asked about manners and behavior expected at the bath(s). We didn’t know if we had to be naked, so we asked and guess what, yes, obviously. Apparently it’s no big deal having your junk swing around, and I agree wholeheartedly, I don’t get why we don’t get naked here in America because it literally doesn’t matter. Anyways, we were excited to jump into the baths despite the new etiquette trait exposing our nads. The hostess had to get us new kimonos since we were BIG & TALL bois and had to convert our height to meters because our dumb American imperial units didn’t communicate with her. Before putting on these bad bois, we had to take a shower to rid ourselves of Mount Fuji soil and it was a big no no to not shower pre onsen. The hostess informed us that we could drink the shower/bath water (NOT THE ONSEN WATER, THAT WOULD BE GROSS) and that it would have a funky taste/smell. She didn’t know the English word, but I deduced since it was hot spring water, it proabbly was a sulfur-y taste or rotten eggs smell. She seemed to confirm my guess with sulfur and tasting the water, it was definitely sulfur. But after the initial shocking taste, it ended up being really delicious. Once we purfiied in the waters of a Japanese mountain, we attempted putting on the kimonos. We looked up the specific way to put on the kimonos and we were ready to rock with our [weiners] out.
These kimonos were incredibly comfy, I mean most things are when you don’t have any underwear. Okay that’s the last reference to my junk in this article. We wander around the hotel for a bit, as I guess we interpreted the map wrong, but finally made our way to the bath areas. There was a worker down there waiting as if to guide people where to go. He didn’t speak much English either, as to be expected, but we managed to communicate that the one we were going to was the public one, and found out the Japanese symbol with a box that was separated into four quadrants was related to male, so we would know which baths was for male and the ones for female. We enter the changing area and Luis takes a quick peak into the public bath to see if everyone was there. The European family from early was in the bath, which contained two males…. and two females. We were confused because we thought it was for males only! So we go and ask the guy outside again for confirmation and get the same response that it was for males. After awkwardly communicating to the family via a slit in the doorway, we told them what the rules are in the changing room. We waited outside and they ventured over to the private bath. The way to know if it’s the private bath is if the changing room has a lock behind it.
Once they were gone, we disrobed going totally buttnaked into the public bath. We take a quick shower in the area just for good measure and jumped in. It was so nice, it was really hot, but in a good way. I would have had pictures of this area if I could, but it was a public bath soooooo no. We stayed long enough to start sweating and I could’ve fallen asleep (bad idea).
After a nice, long, relaxing bath, we got ready for dinner. Headed back to the room and put on some regular clothes and made our way to the dinner area. I was in gym shorts and t-shirt because I wanted to be as comfy as possible. The hostess guided us to our seats which was in a public dining area, so there was other guests there enjoying their food. We quickly realized that we were the only ones not wearing our kimonos to dinner. APPARENTLY WE WERE FILTHY FOREIGNERS WHO DIDN’T KNOW PROPER MANNERS. I easily was embarrassed by what was happening and held my head down. I thought I heard the older Japanese men next to us say “gaijin” which is a derogatory term for foreigners. I had my “gaijin” cherry popped as I expected to hear it more often. In retrospect, it’s pretty nice that I hadn’t heard it during the trip so far, and there was no better place to hear it than an authentic Japanese dinner setting.
As for the food, it was easily one of the most delicious things we’ve had. I didn’t take a picture because I forgot my phone and I was too embarrassed by our clothing to even think about that. The biggest thing I remember what we had was the most delicious kosher beef I’ve had. They had a little grill that was made out of Mount Fuji volcanic rock you could cook on! Sugoi! The other items were obscure vegetables prepared in equally obscure ways. I honestly am at a lost for words on what the food was. It was definitely an experience in trying exotic foods.
It was around 7 PM once dinner was done and so we headed back to our room. These people must be ninjas because during our dinner the staff snuck in and rearranged the table and laid the traditional flat beds for us to sleep on and the lights were dimmed. We easily tucked ourselves in the surprisingly comfortable beds and passed out.
We slept for 13 HOURS! Not a surprise, considering we had the longest of days yesterday with barely any sleep. It was breakfast time, but this time w e w e r e p r e p a r e d. We armored up with the kimonos and headed to the dining rooms, very proud of ourselves for following the rules this time. And wouldn’t you fucking know it, some Japanese people were in regular, casual clothes for breakfast. WHAT THE FUCK DON’T TURN THE GOD DAMN TABLES ON ME JAPAN. Whatever, we were comfortable. This time, I had my phone so I could totes take the picture of the weird food we had here.
Yup that’s fish folks. I’ve never had fried fish for breakfast, but when-in-Japan do as the Japanese do. It was still delicious. Lemme try to decipher what’s on the picture there. You got the easy one, the fish in the middle, the top left dish is seaweed (not my favorite), the one next to it in the center is interesting I think rice paste that was sticky which was vicious enough to grab with chopsticks, and on the top right corner was easily salmon. The bowl to the left corner was miso soup, my favorite thing on there and the remaining dishes, I couldn’t even tell yah.
We had to whole day at the hotel so what else were we going to do except relax at the baths. We decided to check out the private baths so this time we could totally take pictures without reproach. I donned a nice green kimono for this day and decided to take a selfie of it before the eventually nudity that would ensue.
I’ve never taken pictures naked, so it was interesting. But the bath was gorgeous. I had Luis take a picture of me nude in the bath for BLOG SAKE. Enjoy:
After enjoying the bath, we decide to chill in the room, I caught up on the articles for you people and Luis looked up Japanese etiquette online. We were then given lunch with a rush of Japanese workers in our room tidying up the place. The lunch was again, SO GOOD. It was ramen, and I cannot get over how great the ramen is here in Japan.
We then went to the break area outside and took in the view, not framed well, but you get the idea:
While we were out there, an old Japanese man who worked there asked us for coins for a vending machine, we didn’t have any on us but he vended some coffee cans anyway. I mean plural, because he was so nice and gave us free chilled coffee. BOSS coffee, it was delicious. Japanese hospitality was on full display here and we loved it.
After taking another bath, we were ready for dinner. The dinner again was just as strange as breakfast and dinner last night.
I mean, I’m not going to attempt to break these food items down, well maybe the salmon and the fried fish. Oh and the super weird acorn noodles adjacent to the fish in the first picture. You heard that right, ACORN NOODLES. It is exactly what you expect acorn noodles to taste like, earthy and nutty. I didn’t like it, and it was chilled to add insult to injury BUT WHEN IN JAPAN DO AS THE, you know what it is. I got out of my comfort zone and downed everything. Even though I didn’t enjoy everything, I can safely say all the food was fresh, and I am thankful for it. I took one more bath for our last night at the spa, and then went to sleep.
Easily, this was our most authentic Japanese experience we had all trip, and I’m really glad we got to enjoy the Japanese culture to its fullest extent here. The people, the food, and especially the baths, were wonderful. It was an arduous journey to get all the way out here, but it was definitely worth it. If you’re planning to go to Japan, do not pass this place up.