I had been fascinated with the concept of onsens/public baths since the first time I heard about them. You’re telling me everyone just gets naked and bathes together? If I was going to get into a public bath in Japan, it was definitely going to be with mirozinjapan- that way in case of any staring, the stares would be shared. In the words of my lovely Senegalese friend, “Yeah. Everyone is naked, but what if this is the first time they are seeing a black butt?” It was an important point to consider – you could all be naked, but some of you might be more of a novelty than others:-). My other friend did have some interesting concerns, “You know in Senegalese culture it’s considered bad luck to see someone’s butts. I don’t know if I am ready for all this bad luck.”
After the tea ceremony we all dressed up in kimonos and did amusing photo shoots. In our attempts to look dainty and demure as the Japanese ladies who had led us through the tea ceremony, we sometimes ended up having pics that made us look like sheep about to get slaughtered. FAIL.
Natsuno had managed to get media to join us for the day. They were fascinated about this group of 18 or so mirozinjapan who were traveling together and wanted to hear about our first impressions of Japan. Later we sat with Jokan – our monk friend, drank tea and chatted a lot about his path to becoming a monk. He was so interesting and calm. We all enjoyed being with him.
We walked half an hour away for dinner at a local restaurant. Before getting in to the restaurant, we took off our shoes. This would become the norm in most of the restaurants we went to in Japan. I found it strangely calming – as if you were entering an African home and had to take off your shoes before stepping on the carpet. It made the restaurants seem more intimate – like someone’s house rather than a hotel. The dinner was delicious and we had yummy sake after that. Gift giving was very big in Japan and Natsuno had reminded us to bring enough trinkets to give as gifts as everyone else would alsobe giving us gifts. We were each given delicious boxes of wafers and in return we gave an assortment of our gifts that represented the diversity of countries we represented. After dinner we walked back to the temple and picked our bath essentials. We got to the public bath house. We walked into a giant room (women-only) where a few naked women were sitting on green buckets soaping themselves. We followed suit – soaped ourselves sitting on the green buckets – still not sure why this has to be done seated. (Maybe it's also bad luck in Japanese culture to moon people?) We rinsed off a bit then jumped into the giant bathtub. I believe that the bath had been set up to boil lobsters – cause that water temperature. I was only able to stay inside for five minutes before I started to fear for my life. I got out of the bath and had to drink lots of water to rehydrate. We wore our pyjamas at the bath house and walked back to the temple in our pjs. We got to the temple – made our futons for sleeping then proceeded upstairs for a session of zen meditation. It was quite relaxing. I believe most people were already half asleep five minutes in – after our long day. It was quite hilarious when in the midst of chanting, the monk hit the gong. Some people almost fell off their seats as they were already drifting off to sleep. We slept at 12:30am and were up by 4:30am for an adventure filled day that would start off with eating the freshest sushi and sashimi at Tsukiju fish market.