Mt. Gozaisho’s Mists, First Onsen Experience, and my BIKE!

BUSY WEEK!

First off, I am making friends! :) I met a few people in my area that are pretty cool as well as some people farther away that are a lot of fun, and that I am surprised to be seeing so often! Feeling a lot less lonely lately, which is great, and I think our prefectural orientation helped a lot with that.

So first, a quick recap of the beginning of my week!

On Sunday August 9th, I explored Yokkaichi with Nasreen. We mostly walked around a lot, ran into an aloof cat, had lunch at Souk Cafe (which was pretty good) and saw Yokkaichi’s mascot’s dad hanging out in the shopping alley. Believe me, the actual mascot (his cute little son who is dressed similarly) is much less terrifying to behold. To get the right image, imagine his neck extending and then retracting until it’s normal length, with his tongue extending and retracting similarly. His eyebrows also wiggled a bit!

Then at night ran into some street musicians named “Chummy”. They were really sweet and took a picture with us!

We are thinking about getting a little group together and checking out their next show at a local bar, which should be a lot of fun!

Monday and Tuesday, August 10th and 11th, we had orientation in Tsu, Mie, where we learned a little bit about different things like team teaching, etc. Each night we went out to have dinner together in little groups. The first night, we had a welcome party which was very sweet.  Afterwards, I went out to my first Japanese kareoke place, but I was a little sleepy so I mostly sat and leaned against the sofas haha. We were in a big group too! On the second day, we even had an earthquake simulator in this little truck!

The rest of the week, I had off for Obon, so on Thursday I went hiking with a group of other teachers to Mt. Gozaisho, the mountain in my town. It’s the tallest mountain in northern Mie, which is pretty cool. And it has a ropeway that brings you up quite a distance! It was very very foggy and rained a little, so we didn’t get to see much in terms of views, but it was still magical!

Our town’s mascot, the Komoshika! :)
In the cable car, going up the ropeway into the mist… GO RU!
Fog/clouds/mist…
Heading up through the mist was especially surreal, because it was all you could see at points. It kind of felt like the windows were just covered in off-white paper or something, with a back light. It was really wild.
A few of our group near the top of the mountain!
Tippy top! This is the border between Shiga and Mie, so I can say I was in Shiga for a bit! :P
A shrine on a near-by peak that we walked to.
Heading down into the shrine area.
Foggy path!
The shrine and a bell in front of it.
The group walking away through a… I think it was a little doorway? I forgot what I took this picture through hehe, but I like it!
At the second shrine, the teachers I was with said that you could try to throw a stone up onto the horizontal stone block. I got one onto the top! Not sure what it symbolizes, but hey, sometimes monkey sees, monkey does!?
And this was near the shrine of the nearby peak we saw in an earlier photo.
Some fog on the way down.

The trip was really beautiful, and the fog made it even more magical. I can’t wait to visit again in the fall when it is clearer, and the trees are changing colors! It will be great. :) It also makes me so excited that this mountain is so close to me! I can’t wait to do some more hiking and exploring, and would love to do some camping if possible… Although it’s a little difficult without a sleeping bag or tent. Oh well!

After Mt. Gozaisho, I met up with a fellow English teacher named Cara living in my area and we went to a JAPANESE ONSEN together!!! I am sure I will go to many more, and I will talk a lot about them, but as of right now, I will speak to my first experience. An onsen in Japan is basically a hot spring, although I am not sure all of them are natural hot springs. Anyway, the most memorable part about anybody’s first onsen experience is that you are completely naked with strangers (of the same gender usually). We visited Aqua Ignis Kataoka Onsen (I think, I pulled this off the Google translated page… LOL), which was only 600 yen (about $6) to enter the onsen. First though, we had dinner in the restaurant in the onsen. I had cold udon noodles, which were delicious! Then we went to the locker rooms, took off our clothes, and walked into the onsen part… during which I was desperately clutching my modesty towel and trying not to look at anybody. I don’t think I made eye contact with anybody for a while haha.

The onsen from the outside – forgive the blurriness! But look how beautiful and serene!
Cold udon dish! <3
After onsen snack (EGG ICE CREAM, DELICIOUS), and strawberry milk.

First, we had to shower and clean ourselves (shampoo, condition, soap up) on these little stools with shower heads. Then, we headed into the hot baths. At this point, it was dark and dim, and the atmosphere was really beautiful. There were many white candles lighting up a little area covered with stones, with bamboo shoots springing up. Half the onsen was inside, and half was outside. Cara said that in the winter, you could see the snow falling around you (all the bathing areas were covered by little overhangs so you wouldn’t get snow on you). It was so magical that it was easy to forget I was naked. Cara and I talked normally and I didn’t feel as panicky as I thought I would originally feel. If I had time, I would go to the onsen once a week! I am already ready for my next trip! There were different pools (ones you could recline in, a barrel one, and a few you would just sit in) so you could walk around. They were all hot though. The springs farther up the mountain sometimes have cold pools where you can cool off. Afterwards (we stayed in for about an hour), we headed out to the dessert area to have some ice-cream. I also had strawberry milk!

Then… Friday… My BIKE ARRIVED!

But first, I had to put it together. I was successful!

Woohoo!! I actually took it out on it’s first ride today (August 16th) band I think I need help raising the handle bars, but so far so good! :D It’s a great bike and rides so smooth. Probably the nicest bike I’ve EVER had! I had a hard time convincing myself to buy it, but I was already able to visit the nearby strip mall in 10 minutes, which would have taken me much longer on foot, so it’s already paying off. :)

Then, on Saturday, August 15th, I headed out to Nara Prefecture to see the famous deer park! That will be the next post, so stay tuned for pictures of deer, temples, and lanterns! :D

But first, I will leave you with a video of something that my friend and I discovered on our way home from the mall the other day…

We are still not sure what this was a part of, but it was so magical walking down the alley and following the sound of the drums. Both of us felt like we were in Spirited Away! <3

A

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