Day Four—Pottery and Hot Springs

Waking up on the fourth day, I didn’t know what our plans would be. The business of the first holiday was over and we had nearly a week until the New Year’s holiday. Apparently our original plan for the day, I was told as Yuuka, Hiroka, Satomi, Okaa-san and I piled into the red Honda, was to visit shrines and temples in Kamakura, the old capital. The weather begged to differ, bringing the sort of cold rain that lasts all day long. I hadn’t experienced rain like that since I left Illinois, so it was almost pleasantly nostalgic. I wasn’t too disappointed at the lost plans, having not known what they were in the first place. Instead we went to a pottery place where customers can sculpt their own cups and mugs. When we arrived, however, we learned that the sculpting half of the operation was shut down for cleaning. We were still able to select from among the pieces that had already been sculpted and paint them ourselves, so Yuuka and I set out to test our painting skills. I tried my best to paint a cherry blossom (sakura), but the brushes take a bit of getting used to and the paint doesn’t appear the same color before and after being fired, so it’s difficult to tell exactly what the finished product will be. We left the mugs there and apparently Yuuka’s mom will have to pick them up and mail them to us once they’re done.

Afterwards we wandered through a nearby shop and looked a bunch more pottery painted in the traditional Japanese style. Okaa-san insisted that I pick out my favorite so she could buy it for me, so now I drink tea in the afternoons at work instead of coffee. The store also carried bags of dried grasshoppers, but for some reason I just wasn’t in the mood for a snack at the moment.

We went from there to the Hot Springs, the public bathhouse. Before our bath we had a bite to eat at the restaurant which was a part of the facility. To eat at the restaurant, we had to purchase tickets from a vending machine for the items we wanted and submit our tickets to the kitchen. We sat in the traditional manner, on the floor at a low table. I had ramen the way it was meant to be eaten, packed with vegetables. Yuuka provided my first experience of ramen in that style, which shattered my illusion that ramen was nothing more than the incredibly thin line between many college students and malnutrition. We had a nice meal before splitting up to head into the bath. I would have to go through the experience on my own, but I wasn’t too terribly worried. I presumed it would all be pretty self-explanatory. I attracted plenty of curious looks, being a white boy on my own wandering around the hot springs. I cleaned up really well with a shower before getting in, and then took a spot in the nice hot tub. The water was very, very warm. I sat in the tub for fifteen or twenty minutes, contemplating the spa and the sauna. By the time I got out of the tub, I was too hot to do anything more. I even felt slightly dizzy when I first emerged. I rinsed off with a cool shower and then dressed to go wait in the lobby. The women took a much longer time than I did, presumably savoring the relaxation and conversation. I watched Japanese TV in the lobby for a bit and did some writing in my little black notebook as I waited for them.

We returned home to have dinner with the guys, along with my veggie juice, of course, before going to bed.

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