Japan Day 10- Mizumaki to the Onsen
This morning we didn’t wake up until 6:30! Brendan read until we all got up at 7:00. We had another lovely breakfast. Nobuko-san has very kindly been aware that Charlie doesn’t care for japanese food as much as Brendan & I do, so she’s been making him a different sort of meal for breakfasts. Yesterday he had home-baked bread (Keiko-san has a bread machine), a green salad, & miso soup. Today he had some of the pumpkin soup from last night, a plate with butter & cheese cubes, & there was an assortment of anpan (red bean paste buns) & “kuremu” pan (creme buns) along with more home-baked bread. Brendan had his usual gohan, soup, & edamame, & the rest of us had gohan, soup, and an assortment of fish cake, tamagoyaki, fresh veggies, & pickles, with grated daikon radish. Yum! Nobuko-san served some japanese peach slices, fresh from her garden, afterward (very different from american peaches) & yummy home-made yoghurt with home-made jam. All this with mugi-cha (iced barley tea), fresh-squeezed orange juice, & ryoku-cha (green tea). So many flavours & textures & colours- so amazing!
After breakfast Charlie got Brendan into the shower, & then they put some water into the tub so he could have a soak (kawaii...!). We did some packing for our weekend travels & Brendan finished his Artemis Fowl book. Just before 10:00 we piled into Nobuko-san’s car to head for a morning of shopping at a local mall. There were some things we’d been really wanting to get- things that we can’t find in the US, such as Kamen Rider Den-O paraphenalia, more dvds, & some manga. Fortunately, we found just about everything we wanted! Brendan was in Kamen Rider heaven, but was able to narrow his purchases down to the “Den-gasher” (a transformer-like tool they riders use) & an action figure of his favourite rider form. We also found 2 more pokemon movies in japanese- hooray!!- plus a Pythagoras Switch dvd -hooray! hooray!. I also found the manga I was looking for, with some help from Tomoko. We decided to eat lunch while we were there (I convinced Tomoko & her mom to let me buy them lunch), so Charlie & Brendan found pizza & the rest of us had various sorts of noodles. Yum again. Afterward, Nobuko-san took us for a look at the sea, in the town where Tomoko grew up (Ashiya), & we even drove past the middle school that she & her sister went to. The day was rainy & foggy but we still enjoyed the views of the sea & the big river that leads to it.
Back home again, Brendan played with his den-gasher while finished packing for the weekend trip & rested for a bit. Tomoko had told us that her sister had rented a van for the trip, since caravaning in 2 cars seemed too difficult. We couldn’t believe the size of the van when we saw it. It comfortably held 10 people (there were 9 of us) & all of our luggage! By japanese standards, where small is the norm, this was nearly the size of a city bus :) We all piled in after Dai-chan & Shin-kun got home from school (Keiko-san took the day off & Kazuhiro-san came home early). The first stop for the weekend was an onsen (hot springs spa) in Yufuin (pronounced “yu-hoo-in”). It took about 2 hours to get there, but the amazing scenery made the time fly by. The boys played with Brendan’s den-gasher for most of the trip, & Brendan did a great job of trying to communicate with them. Dai-chan is very “genki” (spirited), something Brendan isn't accustomed to, but he did beautifully. At one point I figured out how to ask Nobuko-san what some feathery trees were called & discovered that they were bamboo (takei)!
The onsen was on an incredibly narrow road & it was touch-&-go getting the van up it & parked. It was a very small, intimate place & we were the only guests that night. It was really beautiful & featured both an indoor & outdoor (private) hot springs bath. The water comes directly from underground volcanic springs, so it was incredibly hot. It was obviously full of minerals, too, because it made you as buoyant as sea water. Brendan & the other boys played with various swords & the den-gasher outside while we all settled into our rooms. Dinner wasn’t until after 7:00, which was pretty late for Brendan. Also, although Tomoko had requested “sai-shoku” (vegetarian) food for us, it wasn’t exactly veggie, so she had me check things out ahead of time & then had them remove anything that might bother Brendan (there was some pretty graphic fish that was moved to the other table, where Tomoko & her family would be sitting). There was a gas grill at the table & we grilled vegetables (there was meat & fish for Tomoko's family, too) right there, then dipped them in sauce & ate them. There was also an amazing assortment of side-dishes prepared many different ways, & all beautiful to look at. Brendan was content with about 3 bowls of rice for dinner, which amazed the owner (he & his wife did the cooking & serving, too). Charlie took him back to our room before the end of the meal, since he was exhausted from the day. I joined them after a bit, & then Charlie & I decided to wash & soak in the outside “ofuro” (hot springs bath). We had to add cold water (from a tap) to make it possible to get in, but once we were used to it it was lovely.
We all slept on futons again, all in a row, just like at Nobuko-san’s. We were able to sleep past 6:00 am again. Hooraay!