Sunday, 17 November 2013

I was brave - really brave - and a good way to end my holiday!

Yes that's about the best way to sum up the final experience as I took courage in hand and went to the local Onsen - this is a type of spa bath and has natural hot springs. I have to say this was a most unusual experience, not the least because of course you have to take off your clothes! Now just forget what I looked like and try and image how it felt!

I deposited my shoes in the small locker and took the key to the reception where it was exchanged for a key for another bigger locker. Now the time to reveal all - strip off and put the stuff in the locker and put the key around your wrist and head to where the action is.  Now I want to remind you that Japanese people are not as well made or tall as Europeans - and the hired towels are small to say the get two towels for your use for 200 yen and it was suggested that it was much better to do this than to have wet towels to bring towel was like a long version of a face cloth and is the modesty towel, should you choose to use it. Now there is something to be said for - well - as the saying goes - when in Rome, do what the Romans do - and that means take courage in hand and strut your stuff, carrying the modesty towel in your hand..... Oh and don't forget to leave any qualms with your inhibitions at the doorway!

Now all the signage is as you would expect, in Japanese, so I was trying to work out which door to go through - and really what the process was. Try and remember all I knew was that this was a spa experience but didn't actually know what facilities there would be.  I had read and understood that the purpose of the spa has nothing to do with getting clean and the first thing you have to  do is take a shower - this is in the public area so folks would know if you didn't follow protocol. Let's face it - it was mid afternoon on a typical Friday and the clientele was apart from me all Japanese with an average age of - well 70 or more.  Japanese women are extremely skinny!! I am white (obviously) and not skinny so wasn't that surprised to get stared at a bit - I decided to just smile back - when you have nothing else to wear, you should always wear your smile!  

So following the shower I headed in the direction I had seen another woman go - this was not such a good idea as the door lead outside to where there were 4 or 5 hot pools of various temperatures, some loungers for you to chill out on and a 'cold' (understatement!!) tub to either get in or use to splash yourself with.  Before I go on, I would like to remind you that I had just deposited my clothes - vest 2 tee shirts, cardigan, scarves, and two jackets along with my trousers etc in the locker so to go outside stark bol**ck naked was a bit of a shock to the system!

Needless to say I did a U turn and headed to the inside area where I made a bee line for the nearest hot pool and quickly got in and sank to my ears....brrr it was cold out there but thankfully hot in the water. The water was cycled round the pool and entered via a very forceful jet which you could position yourself against to get a massage from the water.

There were several pools with different temperatures and I think the idea is that you start of with  the lower temperatures and work from pool to pool rising in heat till you have had enough. The temperatures were 40.3, 41.6 and there was others that I didn't read. Another was 17.6 - and it felt too cold to go in although I did stand in it up to my knees....but not for long. One of the other clients laughed at me - she indicated it was too cold for her to try! After a few soaks in the pools I headed through another door to investigate.  This was a large sauna where you sit on a little rubber mat that you pick up at the doorway - or you can sit on your folded modesty towel. I used mine to wipe my rather hot brow! I like both sauna and steam rooms so this was fine - I knew the ropes here! So after watching some Japanese film on the large TV in the sauna for a while, I ventured back out to the cool tank for a sploosh and then went outside to cool down.  Now that I had been through the process, the outdoors didn't seem quite so bad - especially once I was in a warm pool again.  

I enjoyed watching the goings on - the women seemed to be with their pals and it all seemed the most natural think in the world. The equivalent Japanese version of a Mrs Brown having a natter with Mrs Smith when Mrs Jones arrived and got in the pool and joined in the chatter. Just a good way of hanging out with your pals - and makes a change from going for a coffee!

When I had had enough, I made my way to the final cleaning area - the end of the spa had about 30 wet stall areas, all with shower gel, shampoo and conditioner for your use. You could regulate the shower temperature and use the hand held shower whilst sitting on what is best described as a plastic bucket stool with a central hole in it. You sit to shower and can use the small washing up like bowl to throw water over yourself if you so choose. Now you discover how small the other towel is and head to the changing rooms to get dry and dressed. Finally you move to another area to use the hairdryers, not forgetting to collect your hairbrush and comb from out of the sanitizing unit. I did my hair and applied a bit of lippy - had no other make-up with me so just had to accept looking a little under made!

For an additional cost you could have had a variety of different massages but I couldn't understand the sign - and didn't really have that long as the taxi was coming at 6.10p.m. - and I needed a final cup of tea before that!

The cost of the spa was 1000 yen - £6.66 at the rate I had exchanged my money for - and for that you could have stayed as long as you want. My only regret is I hadn't tried it earlier in the holiday since if I had, I would have made several visits. I really enjoyed it and felt warm but thoroughly chilled out. An ideal way to go home after a fantastic holiday!

When I got back to the digs, Haru wanted to know what I had though of the onsen - he seemed pleased that I had tried it and also that I had enjoyed it. I had my cuppa and got my coat back on as the time to go was nearly here....I went to look for the taxi just at the moment that it arrived. So all was well. I made my final goodbyes and headed off to the airport. Luckily the preparation I had done with the scales etc led to an easy passage through the check-in procedures. My bag weighed in at 29.8 kg - (30 kg allowance!) and the very nice attendant decided my hand luggage was only small so she wouldn't weigh it! Thank goodness for that as it was considerably over weight - and I had a shopping bag that also weighed a ton!

For the next time I will invest in better hand luggage - with wheels so that I don't have to struggle quite so much  - two heavy bags with bad knees and ankles really don't go well together. I got my exercise for the day just walking around the airport and going to the right gate -  it seemed like miles. In fact it was even further at Dubai!

It was an uneventful journey home - just a bit of disturbance with heavy clouds but nothing too bad. On arrival at Birmingham - the usual wait and battle with the luggage carousel and relief when my bag finally appeared.  I got a trolley (should be a pound charge but as my card wasn't accepted by the machine I got a freebie thanks to a friendly giant of an attendant!) and headed through the doorway to find Paul at the front of the waiting hoards - a perfect end to a perfect holiday!

This is the last post .........until the next time!! 

Hope you have enjoyed reading about my adventures and a very big thank you to everyone who added a comment or sent an email.  Perhaps you will be encouraged to also be brave and go it alone if you really want to go somewhere. If you haven't got a travelling companion you shouldn't let this stop you making your own adventure!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Be impressed, be very impressed...and now you can be!!

Ah-hah! Now I can continue with what I was going to report from Dubai, but couldn't as the technology wouldn't work. I will have removed the other frustrated messages that I posted from Dubai - i.e. all those with the text in the title area as that was all that was available. I now suspect there might have been a security gizmo to stop unauthorized updates as it was a public computer in the middle of the departure lounge.

So to the final day spent in Kyoto. I awoke to the predicted deluge and was in no hurry to go out and get soaked First completed all the packing and weighting of stuff and prepared my parcel of clothes to send home as I knew I was over the weight limit. The parcel weighed just under 3kg and cost 2890 yen to post - luckily the clothes are worth more than the postage! It should arrive in about 3 weeks as it is coming surface mail - I won't be needing the stuff till next summer!

After the Post Office it was the familiar path to the station for a final flurry in Kyoto. I needed to go back to the museum of traditional crafts as I wanted to make notes about the Yuzen dyeing process and also have another look around. I could spend days in the place and when i return to Kyoto (!) I will definitely revisit it.

On the bus to the museum I noticed this wall art - really wonder what the words say!
Sorry quality bad on the few pictures for today as I had forgotten to alter the setting for ISO speed so they all are grainy! Just ignore it and don't enlarge the pictures!

 then 'jump' off the bus and leg it to the museum - at least teh rain had stopped but you can see the sky was still full of gloom!
 Not sure who this sculpture is - or if I posted it before - not time to check so sorry if it's a repeat.
Final picture is another angle of the rather strange sculpture outside the museum and exhibition halls
Once inside and back in the basement, it was time to get down to some serious studying - I just hope that I can decipher my rather lengthy notes - must try and type them up soon before I forget! I spent about 3 hours in the museum and could have spent longer but I had decided to add a final shiver of excitement into the latter part of the day..see the next post as I think it deserves an entry to itself! ttfn.

Day 16 - already!

I am very late starting tonight as have been packing and weighing luggage - and repacking and reweighing - etc this will be brief but there are tons of photos so they will make up for the lack of words.  Sometime tomorrow or on Saturday I will complete the tale, but until then here was today....

The tile should really be 'I saved the best till the last' as that is my thoughts on today! Weather still cold but beautiful and like every day I head of to the station and as usual get caught at one of the three crossings - on a bad day it can be at all three!
I have passed this poster everyday and it has always made me smile - some things seem to be universal!
 I'm sure you will all thing I am obsessed with toilets  -I'm not but do use them quite a bit. I think this is one of the excellent ideas seen here - it is a seat for young Mum's to put toddlers in while they make use of the facilities without the little tykes running amuck while they do what they need to do!
I arrived at first port of call - Nijo Castle - had to be outside today as I needed to take advantage of the lovely weather.
 No - it's alright - the castle was finished - this looked to be some sort of protected area being added - hopefully for tourists to use for shelter when it rains - there is a definite shortage of such shelters here!
So after a wander along I arrived at the 'front door' so to speak. I now got an inkling of what was in store!
 This shows the detail bettter
 ....and don't forget to look up at the roof line...
Litter clearance? Not here - just tidying up the fallen leaves. I have been extremely impressed by how tidy and clean the streets are - and there are very few rubbish bins around as people know they have to take their rubbish home!
 Another detail of the roof - just think what it would have looked like when all the metalwork was new...
 Here is a shot of the requisite water garden...
 This might seem a bit of a sad thing to photograph - it is a bamboo fence and I was taken byt hte neatness of it all...
 Couple of chaps discussing the price of fish - or whatever! Standing on a bridge over one of the two moats.
Just look at the size of the entrance gates - and all the knobbly bits!
 Here is a detail shot of one of the hinges - the were massive!
 These two were high school students on a trip to Nijo castle - one of the things they had to do was carry out a survey of other visitors - where they were from, what they liked in Japan and where they had been. Their English was amongst the best I have heard all holiday.
 This is one of the team of gardeners doing a spot of pruning...
Now the view from the top of the battlements...
 ...and looking down at the outer moat...
Just think about the shifting into place of these rocks - they didn't have mechanical cranes then!
Specially for Isabel - a list of the planting for the gardens!  I also have the map to which it refers!
 Notice how tidy all the supporting structures are for the trees....
 What about this for a lock...
 Had a smile at this - yes back to that subject again!!
 Walking around the grounds...
Heading to the shop - here you can stop for lunch...can you see the monks wooly stockings?
 Lovely to look at hte decorative roofline...
Time for the picnic kids - spot the girl with teh golden legs!
 The I went to get my ice-cream and bumped into 3 Japanese ladies having lunch - a Bento box. They were chatting to a guy from New Zealand - he had a good bit of the Maori in him judging from his complexion, but he seemed to speak quite good Japanese - again from what I observed - not from what I know!
The next smile came form this sign - no photography or drawing was allowed inside the castle - hope this wasn't meant as a reflection on the abilities of the average tourist!
 Thought of you Ruth as I walked past these on my way to the bus stop...
Now for a real delight....I finally managed to find the Nagakusa Embroidery school - this was where I had hoped to take a few lessons....perhaps next time!  I was greeted by Sumie (Mrs N)- who would have been my teacher. I had been given the impression she didn't speak any English, but we seemed to be able to communicate very well - she did use an I-pad for looking up the odd word or two. Amazing what sign language and a few words can convey. I was allowed (perhaps by mistake) to just take a few photos so they are here - sadly they are so few in number....
 I can't remember exactly which kimono took what amount of time - two years was mentioned more than once! If you thought the above one was splendid then this next one will have your jaw dropping....
 Then one of the students was told to get some samples out for me to drool over...these are bands that would have been tied around the head - they are over 2 metres long and about 2 inches wide....naturally folded perfectly to fit the drawer.
These next ones are gold background - that is gold leaf that has been applied to the silk before i was looking at them I was sighing with relief that I hadn't been a student - I felt I would have been out of my depth partly as the work was so fine...I strand of 12 suga (strands), split and twisted....
This was the outside - I just dropped lucky when I was looking for the address as a delivery person had just dropped something of and the gate was open- a student came out at the sound of voices and when I asked for directions (this means pointing at the address on the map I had) she said I had found it and pointed to the ground!
 I took tea and sweets with Sumie - boy was I glad to have been to the tea ceremony the other day as I at least had an idea of the etiquette - even though tea was served by Sumie herself.  Yummy sweets one was in the shape of a pine cone, one a maple leaf, beautifully shaded and the others were ginkgo leaf shaped. I finally left - would have stayed longer but was worried that I might outstay the welcome! So on to the next destination - the Botanical gardens....but on the way I got waylayed by this apparatus....can you guess what it was for?
 It was a popped rice maker and when the rice was ready the man rang a warning bell as the thing went off like a cannon! So now for a wander around the garden....Just admire the pictures - they speak for themselves....
 Great statues!

 Bonsai - what else!
 bamboo propagation...
A spot of pruning - you didn't actually think all those shapes were natural did you?
 Yet another wedding couple....I came across them again later - as you will see!

 Decorative cabbages for sale at the shop...under £1 each - not bad!
 Why this tree was out of the ground I have no idea....
 Lavender's blue, dilly dilly....
There was a kids playground with huge sumo statue - was he ther to terrify the kids into behaving?
 Glorious colour even if the light is beginning to go...
 Then I arrived outside the conservatory...massive or what!
 Complete with pool for the reflective amongst you!
This statue wasn't done from a model of a Japanese girl - far to well rounded for that!
Here's that couple again !
 There's nothing wrong with a  bit of advertising!
 This statue seemed to be a sitting on her hat - or not!
Now back on the bus on the way to the station. These two were playing hand games - here is the church and here is the steeple, open you hand and here's the might know what I mean if you are of a certain age! I can't remember the right words!
 These boys had spotted the camera!
 I'm not sure if this counts as manga!
 As I arrived at the station complex I was just in time for an 'impromptu' laser light show - bet tehy do it to schedule but no-one knows when it is!
 And finally a last look back at Kyoto tower....

 Now I am planning nipping back into Kyoto to go back to the craft museum as feel I have unfinished business there - then I plan to brave it and go to the local onsen (spa bath). There will definitely not be any photos from there!

Remember to watch this space for a few days as I will do a tad more to round things off.

If you are still reading, I want to thank you for all the comments on the blog.  I have felt like I am just having a natter (as usual). The comments and email messages that I have received have all helped to keep me sane (well you know what I mean!). I did fear the solitary nature of a solo trip  - I was worried I might get down or lonely with no-one to talk to -  but via the wonders of technology, this hasn't happened.

I also want to say a special thank you - and a hello to Tsun and Betty Boo!! They will know who I mean - they are a lovely couple who are in the room next door. Like the youngsters I mentioned meeting again in Nara, this couple are also from Taiwan. We have had many a good conversation and with sign language and repeated effort have been able to communicate well. They also leave tomorrow - the place will be empty as I think the German, the Serb and the French chaps are leaving too..

I wonder -  have I been brave???....better to be bold than not to do something that you really want to, just because you have to go everyone, I will only have one life - and it is ticking by. I need to live it, not waste it! 

Now to bed....Hmm....I wonder if I will be able to persuade Paul that I need to go to.........

Night night!