If any of you remember reading an entry that I wrote about 2 months ago I mentioned Japanese Onsen. I went on to explain how Onsen has been a traditional part of Japanese culture for a wicked long time and is as normal as shaving your face every morning before work. So to the untrained un-integrated eye, Onsen is basically a bunch of butt naked dudes hanging out in a tub with abnormally hot water, abnormally large amounts of scrubbing and abnormal quantities of conversation considering the circumstance. Don't get me wrong I am quite comfortable with being in the buff every now and then. I mean its primal, liberating and lets one really get in touch with parts of oneself that may be forgotten every now and then ( hmm ... you know what I mean). Yeah so first things first you drop trow in a room full of tatami mats and find a cubby hole for all of your clothes. You grab a tiny facecloth, which in this case should not be called a "face"cloth but a cloth with the word of all the other parts of the body that one washes with it
. IE: armpit cloth, toe jam cloth, crevasse cloth..... you get the picture. You then head into the Onsen room which is usually a natural type setting with rocks and such or a simply a huge tiled bathroom. Of course the room has a large steaming hot pool of mineral water in it but the weird thing is the many sitting areas along the side equip with mirrors, shampoos and one foot high stools. It would be against the unwritten Onsen rule to get into the mineral water in a scuzzy state. So you must spend some quality time staring at your nude self in one of these mirrors scrubbing with the complimentary soap and hosing yourself down whilst crouching on a super tiny stool. Solid metal image eh? I actually saw a dude sit at one of these stations for over 40 minutes rigorously scrubbing, primping and shaving his eyebrows! So once you are clean you hit up the hot pool to relax and soak in the vitamins with not a barrier/stitch of clothing to be found! My experience, once in the pool, was that many of these guys were interested in my tattoos and just the simple fact that I am a caucasian guy doing a very Japanese thing. This was fine but the hard part was trying to make my exit! Being in Japan I have really learned that there is a time for shame and just setting aside the ego and this was one of them...... you just have to commit and stick to it! Needless to say there were a lot of wandering eyes but mission accomplished!! Successfully went to an Onsen without insulting the culture or Gaijin Smashing
! BOOM CHICKA. It was actually quite relaxing believe it or not!
The remainder of life keeps on kicking ass as well! Currently classes are at a stand still because of the New Year and so I have been keeping busy with kids camps. I just finished an intense 4 day International English camp at the Ashoro Nature Centre which was pretty solid. I was asked to lead some of the activities so of course I had to whip out my creativity skills and teach the Cha Cha Slide. This is a dance that requires both rhythm and coordination, two things that a pasty white boy from conservative Alberta is lacking in. You give me a Nitty Grit Dirt band song though, and I can whip up a two step like no ones business! So yes, the Cha Cha slide was interesting and the kids definitely were given the freedom to be creative with their dancing styles as the guy teaching had no frickin clue what he was doing either. The rest of the camp was followed by a trip to the zoo, snow rafting behind a Ski Doo, snowshoeing, speech writing, cross country skiing, cooking and a nightly Canada vs. Japan basketball game. We Canadians may have height but definitely should stick to being lumberjacks and mushing dogs! The behaviour of the children is one of the major differences that I noted at this camp when comparing to camps I have been to when I was growing up. In Japan the kids didn't even have to be monitored when going to bed and were everywhere on time
. If I remember correctly, my counsellors had to move kids like me to different dorms when going to bed because I would be a little punk and would shaving cream everyone once they fell asleep. They would also have to spend half their days counting heads and chasing kids down for activities. The kids at the camp were so well behaved and wanted to do there best when practicing English as well. I actually had a sweet little girl named Eureka that would tear up and "ugly cry" when she was practicing for her English speech. It was a struggle every time but she would always get through practicing it no matter how much snot and tears and lip quivering there was. I posted a little video here of the speeches that we worked on! They are wicked cute and keep in mind that these kids even have a hard time answering the questions "how are you?" in English. SUCESS!
Japan keeps surprising that is for sure. I always seem to mention how nice people are here almost to the point of it being unrealistic..... wither way there always seems to be some occurrence in a day where this characteristic is highlighted. This past weekend I went snowboarding with some friends for a couple days at Furano ski resort. The snow never stopped coming when were there which made for some of the best "pow pow shredding" conditions I have ever seen before. We dropped some gnarly caty wompass ridin, feeblegrinds and fakies ( ok.
. did I loose you there???... cause I think I even lost myself in my newly found snowboarder lingo!!) Anyways, back to the affable nature of Japanese people. My buddy Adam happened to realize that he had left his lift ticket in one of the lift huts right in the open for all eyes to see. We had already gotten on the lift, so he had no way of going back to get it until we went up and back down We did the run and YUP, 40 minutes later the ticket was still sitting in the exact spot where he had left it. The respect and courtesy for their fellow man is something that can't be ignored. Another dude I met was just travelling through Japan and wanted to send his road bike via mail back to Italy. He said he got to the post office just before close and when he went to send the bike he and the post office worker discovered the box was too big. They then stayed at the post office an hour past closing time trying to cram this bike into a smaller box. They eventually got it figured and all the Japanese guy accepted for his extra work was a thank you. For real though, you can't even shovel snow for someone without them bringing you over a jar of saki or fishy ball of rice! I have even gotten into this bad habit of not locking my door of my house because of how comfortable and safe I feel here. Wait though, I still would rather you not go and announce this to the whole prefecture of Tokachi or county of Ashoro...... I probably just jinxed myself for writing that and will come home tomorrow to my place ransacked.
Things are solid as you can see and I am working hard to not become jaded and seize the moments! Thanks to all of you who are checking out the blog still! Like I said before, the comments are greatly appreciated!
Oh, and be sure to check out the not so triumphant return of Stal-Ian.