Sunday, July 22, 2012


Public Bath

So maybe this is the blog you have all waited for:  the public bath or onsen as they call them here.   In high school we learned a saying in our English class that has always stuck with me:  Anticipation is greater than realization.  This is generally true.  We often worry, plan, and anticipate with a lot of emotion and then when we actually go through the event, it is not as bad as we thought it might be.  So, be prepared, this blog may be more boring than you think!

Our friends, the Kikuchis, have been dying to take us to an onsen (public bath) for a long time.  Sister Kikuchi (Takie) is a member of the Church but her husband (Haruyoshi) is not but he was just as excited to go as Takie was.  They called us a week before, and said they wanted to take us to this onsen the next Monday.

They picked us up at 8:00 a.m. (you read right!) and we were off.  The onsen was about two hours away but true to Japanese ways, it took us about four hours to get there!  They had given us explicit directions not to eat breakfast so we didn't.  The first stop was a 7-11 about a half hour away.  We stopped and got drinks and snacks to eat along the way.  I turned down an ice cream cone and Takie thought I was sick or something (it was 8:30 a.m.!). 

Back on the road for another hour or so we then stopped at a shopping area:

It was actually a little more exciting than it looks!  It had a nice vegetable-grocery area, some food booths in the inside and outside, and a few little shops inside.  Here we had a bowl of noodles and the Kikuchis bought a bunch of food because "there's nothing to eat at the onsen."  Oh, and we left with ice cream cones in hand.

Next stop:

They wanted to show us the Katanuma Swamp.  It is a nice lake but is a bit smelly since it is a bit sulphurous and no one was really there.  Then on to the real destination only a few miles away:  the onsen.

As we neared the town there were quite a few hotels along the street.  We were told that there was a natural hot springs along that street so there were many hotels with onsens in them and the place was quite wellknown.  The one we were headed for was up the mountain and a windy road.  The hotel was quite large and when we went in, we got our own room:

The Kikuchis knew the owners and they provided us with this large hotel room that was more like a timeshare condo for free.  We stayed there the whole day! 

As soon as we got there, Takie said, "Let's go in the onsen!" so we did.  For those of you who have never had the experience this is what it is like:  We went into a room about 12x12 which resembled a swimming pool locker room with lockers and baskets along one wall.  We had two towels, a small hand towel and a larger bath towel.  Men and women are separate!  We got undressed (no small locker rooms) and put our clothes in one of the baskets.  We went into the next room with our small towels and there were 3-4 hand-held showers along the wall.  Each person showers before entering the onsen.  There were two pools:  one inside and one outside.  Both were fairly small, like a small pool or a large hot tub.  We got in and it was quite hot!  Apparently you can't regulate the temperature because they are NATURAL hot springs!   So you get whatever the temp is that day.  It actually felt good, although hot, but after about two minutes, Takie said, "It's too hot, let's go!"  Yes, that was the experience!  We had to go back, get dressed, and go back to our room!  We did go back and get in again a few hours later before we left, but we didn't stay more than 10 minutes the second time!

So, the thing I think is funny is that Calvin made a big fuss beforehand about being "shy" (which I would not recommend).  So, Takie and Haruyoshi kept encouraging him on.  Well, the whole branch heard of his "shyness" and got details of how he did!  Did he put a towel around himself?  Did he go in?  How long?  etc. etc.!  And it is still the talk of the branch wanting to know if he will go again!

For me, I quite liked it and the girls (other sisters in the branch) are planning on going again--probably without the guys!

Later in the day we were able to give a gospel lesson to the owner's wife.  Their three children are members but they are not.

The rest of our day was spent eating and eating and eating.  We even stopped off on the way home at a small restaurant where you grilled your own food on a grill in front of you that was very tasty.    We didn't get home till amost 8:00 p.m.!  I was so tired!

Oh, when we got back, Takie said, "I bought you this vegetable and it's really good and you cook it and it really tastes good.  Once in the apartment I examined the vegetable:

It was a zucchini!  Being a zucchini-freak, I was so excited!  I made zucchini bread for Institute on Wednesday.  Everyone was amazed!

Goodby Maki Shimai

On Friday our branch hosted a goodby party for a sister missionary who was just released.  Her mother and brother had come to pick her up so she was able to visit some of the areas she had served in.

That's Sister Maki in the middle.  She is quite famous around here.  When the earthquake and tsunami hit, she was in Ishinomaki where we are.  In fact, she lived in our apartment.  The members adored her.  For 3-4 four days afterwards the mission looked for her and her companion but could not find them.  Then, they finally found them in the school where they had been evaculated to.  They had spent the last three days doing service--mostly cleaning toilets!  We had met her briefly before but meeting her again was a real treat.  She is so outgoing and attracted so many people from all over.

As a sidenote, Calvin found out that her grandfather was the first to join the Church so she is third generation LDS.  Her grandfather visited the World's Fair in 1970 in Osaka and signed his name as interested and was later contacted and joined the Church.  It was the same World's Fair that Calvin served at 40 years ago!

Some Blessings are More Visible Than Others

When we went to our family English class this week, the director of the civic center where we teach came in and said, "I have a present for Sister Sakamoto."  He went around the corner and gave me this:

It is a HUGE orchid plant!  Those of you who know me,  know that my thumbs aren't naturally green.  So please let me know if you have any tips on keeping this plant alive---the humidity here is about 90% but the tag said to water it every five days with 2 cups of water.  That seems way too much!


I don't usually give weather updates, but I have read about the heat in Utah and the whole US this year so I thought I would tell you about the weather here the past few days.  It has been unseasonably cool (which I don't mind at all).  It has been in the mid 60's and feels wonderful especially since I know that the heat will be here with a vengeance soon.  We have heard several complaints that it is "too cold" but I would NEVER complain about the mid 60's!  

1 comment:

  1. Dear Calvin & Julie. Elder Frank and I always enjoy reading your blog, but this time I thought maybe I should give you some advice regarding your orchid. Ben and Bethany had one sent to me here in Germany for Mother's Day just full of blooms. I also had one at home in South Jordan. The key to keeping orchids in bloom is the sun exposure. They like a southern or southeastern exposure to light. I only water my plant here once a week and then with only 1/2 to 3/4 c. of water. I think you could easily kill an orchid with the kind of humidity in Japan if you water it with 2 c. Anyway, the blossoms on the one here are still just as beautiful as they were on Mother's Day.

    We also enjoyed your story about the "onsen."

    We are happy in our work here and are keeping very busy. Today we had dinner with a wonderful family in our ward, their 2 children, her sister and her niece and 6 of us missionaries. The food is always delicious. Do you have our blog site?

    Love, Elder and Sister Frank