Being slightly unconnected to the marathon, and a whole new place, I felt today’s antics really deserved a wee post all of their own. The difficulty is knowing where to start.
Monday 26th February 2018
Today, as part of the 2:09 itinerary, we were taking the bullet train to Hakone Yumoto to visit the Onsen (hot springs)…perfect recovery for tired muscles. Little did I know when we signed up for this extra part of the excursion just how seriously the Japanese take their bathing but being one for not wanting to miss out on any part of the experience I was up for giving it a go. The tips we received on what to expect and how to behave at the Onsen included:
- No bathing suits – in fact bathing suits are prohibited. Eek!
- The baths for men and women are separate. Thankfully no mixed bathing, phew!
- No tattoos. Some are super strict and won’t allow you to use the springs at all. Others will allow you an attempt to cover them. I don’t have any so this wasn’t a problem.
- When you first enter the bathing area, you must wash yourself thoroughly.
- Keep your towel out of the water (more on that later).
- Keep your hair out of the water.
With more rules than a swimming pool, I was beginning to wonder just how relaxing this would be but I’m sure it won’t be so bad once we are a bit more familiar with the set up. We checked in and were given a locker key, a bag with a large towel, a small towel (about the size of a face cloth) a yukata (cotton kimono) and a sash for the yukata. I went with the other ladies to our changing room…cue the hilarity! With something the size of a face cloth to cover your modesty the only thing we could do was embrace it and go for it. As we stripped down to our birthday suits and awkwardly tried to stretch out our tiny pieces of cotton, it reminded me a bit of a scene from Calendar Girls with laughs galore, goodness knows what the locals must have thought. Now completely starkers, before you go in to the springs, you have to wash yourself at a shower station that comes complete with a wooden stool that I thought resembled something from a milking parlour. You’ll be glad to know I didn’t think it necessary to take photographs of these parts.
Finally it was time to go in to the Onsen and it was definitely worth the effort. The little face cloth goes with you though is not allowed to enter the water, so most people put in on their heads. The springs were super relaxing, lovely and warm with beautiful views of the mountings and surrounding villages. I’m so pleased we got the chance to experience it.
After bathing, we got dressed in our yukatas and had a traditional lunch in a private dining room. I wouldn’t like to be tasked with the job of washing up after a traditional Japanese meal. It amazes me how many different serving dishes and bowls are used, each one beautifully coloured with intricate patterns.
Following lunch, we had some free time to walk around the beautiful gardens before it was time to catch our connecting train back to Odawara. We managed to get some great photos with our medals, including the ultimate ‘Star Jump Diaries‘ though Yvonne and I had a little bit of a situation trying to get ourselves on to the stepping stones to pose with our bling, much fun.
Back at the hotel I finished off the day nicely by having dinner with Amanda. It was lovely to chat all things running with someone that didn’t mind listening! By this time, sleepiness had caught up with me. It was time to head upstairs and get packed up for moving on tomorrow.
Tuesday 27th February 2018
After my last tasty protein fuelled hotel buffet breakfast (always a winner!) and one too many croissants, it was time to make my way to the airport, Narita this time to start the next part of my journey.
It sounds silly, but I do always feel a little sad when I’m moving on to a new place. Don’t get me wrong, I am super excited (and lucky!) to be moving on somewhere else but it’s just special to think of all the things you have experienced.
Next stop…. Hong Kong!