Thousands of Miles from Home


Living It Up At The Hotel (Marina)

Yesterday was a day for many japanese firsts. When I went to Andee's host family's house a few weeks ago (seems like forever now) they asked me if I wanted to stay with them at the Marine Hotel (a hotel and spa in Tamano) with a few of their family members who were coming to town for a reunion. They would love to have me because Andee was staying in his own room and having me along wouldn't be any problem.

Andee and his host dad picked me up Saturday around 3:00. Andee's host dad races cars so his Toyota has no back seats, a racing gear shift, and a giant wing. Not to mention a ton a racing stickers. It was cramped but we drove to the hotel in record time (for some reason it seems like Japanese host dads like to drive really fast; Masatoshi is no exception). At the hotel Andee's dad told us that we has a few hours before dinner, so we could visit the nextdoor aquarium or walk along the beach. We took our stuff to the hotel room and struck out for the aquarium.

The marine aquarium of Tamano is well supplied for a small town (being next to the sea probably helps). Among it's many inhabitants were numerous species of fish, octoupus, sea anemone, 5 giant sea turtles (my favorite), a giant otter, pengiuns, and for some reason, two monkeys (why not, really?). The collection also included a large assortment of sea shells, fossils, and a stuffed bird that reminded me of the Tsuyama Wonder Museum. Above the entrance to the aquarium was a full whale skeleton. Andee and I browsed the aquarium, took some photos, then walked to the beach to catch the sunset.

This particular evening the sun set behind a layer of coulds, which make for a very picturesque moment. Shibukawa beach, alongside the Marine Hotel, is not the largest of beaches in Japan. It's actually quite small, but the view was not to be missed. Mountains envelop the shore like a cove, with the Seto-Ohashi bridge visible in the distance.

Back at the hotel Andee and I changed into the hotel's outfit, a very japanese yukata (robe) and hanten (half-jacket). Japanese hotels, unlike American hotels, provide their own outfit that many guests prefer to wear. The hotel is built over a natural hot spring, so there is both an indoor pool and onsen (public bath) where guests can relax. Before dinner Andee and I swam in the pool and enjoyed the outdoor hot tub. In the hot tub the crash of the waves could be heard in the distance, (insert reflective poem here).

I may have injured myself while eating. The hotel provided a massive buffet, called Viking. Viking is the japanese word for buffet; it's very similar to a Viking feast following the sack and pillage of a town (minus battles to the death during dessert). Andee's whole family gathered at a giant table and after I was introduced to everyone the feast began. Of the dishes I remeber, there was sushi, sashimi, chicken, potatoes, steak, spaghetti, shrimp, rice, bread, soups, salads, pork, and vegetables. That's just the main course. For dessert, there were cakes, puddings, ice cream, fruit, sorbet, and anko (a sweet bean paste that I increasingly crave). I was very glad to be wearing the hotel's loose fitting clothing because I stuffed myself. During dinner, two women played the piano and oboe (it probably wasn't an oboe but I am clueless when it comes to wind instruments). Regardless it was great.

After dinner, and a considerable rest, Andee and I went to relax in the onsen. Onsen, for those who have not been to japan, is a public bath. However, before entering the bath you wash your body, so it's more like a public hot-water soaking area. In my opinion, it feels wonderful. You are naked, and there a bunch of other naked people there, but I didn't feel insecure. Next to the extremely hot water is a pool with (that's right) extremely cold water. Moving between these two pools and the outside hot spring was quite soothing. There was also a large supply of body washes and soaps to choose from before and after using the onsen. I washed my hair with something black, and my body with something silver, the color of liquid metal.

After returning to our hotel room, Andee and I watched the evening movie, Terminator 2 (the voice dubbing in Japanese was really amusing, but we ended up watching in english). The next morning I ate an equally huge breakfast at the buffet. Andee and I took another trip to the onsen, which was considerably less crowded in the morning. After thanking Andee's host family for the wonderful opportunity to spend the evening at the spa and hotel, Shoko picked me up for Sunday's festivities (which will be the topic of another entry). Hint: Katanas.

As of today I have been in Japan 3 months.


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