Ah, after a big weekend pimping my wares at Design Festa, Tokyo Big Sight it was great to escape to the mountains south west of Tokyo and stay at a Ryokan for some quality R and R.
My good friend Kumi and I headed off on Tuesday morning in her car to Hakone, a town in the mountains famous for Soba (buckwheat noodles) and Onsens (hot springs). One thing I have missed while living in Melbourne has been Onsens, I just love getting my kit off and soaking in a hot bath with good friends…. you might snicker but don’t knock it until you try it. I have had some incredibly honest and beautiful conversations in baths here in Japan. What is said in ofuro (bath) stays in the ofuro.
On the way we went to Odawara Castle and the Open-air Museum just outside of Hakone where there is a garden amongst the mountains full of sculptures and experimental art as well as a museum devoted solely to the art of Picasso.
As we hadn’t booked a place to stay yet, and Hakone is known to be rather expensive, Kumi spoke to a lovely obachan in the information centre. She explained that she was here with her Australian friend that we didn’t have much money and that we were both young women. The woman phoned one of the hotels and explained the situation and she managed to get us a great discount… we got one night with full use of the Japanese baths for 6500 yen, usually 10,000 yen. Yatta! Thanks Kumi!
The baths were true onsen water (hot spring) and had all sorts of minerals, etc that are supposed to make your skin soft and look younger. I soaked for as long as I could take the 65 degree water and then we headed off to an Izakaya (Japanese restaurant) down the street. The food was amazing, we had a selection of Sashimi, tempura, tofu and mozoku (Japanese seaweed known for its cancer fighting properties). It was all so lovely, Kumi and I gossiped about everything that has happened since I have left and I found myself understanding more and more about the relationships I have created with everyone here.
I knew how much I enjoyed their company and felt so close to them, but I had no idea how much I was a part of their lives, and still am. I realized how much I missed them on my return to Australia, I always feel so guilty about being so lonely in my hometown when surrounded by family and friends some things can’t be explained or understood…..shared experiences are essential to friendship.
Walking along the river we scared each other with stories of obake (Japanese ghosts) and enjoyed the fresh air.
Another bath and several glasses of sake later I was truly relaxed.
The next morning it was another bath, Soba noodles for brunch and a visit to the Hakone Toy Museum… I have uploaded lots of pics to Flickr again so go and check ’em out!