Sunday, July 5, 2009

Nakagome Farm and Yamanashi Prefecture: Fresh fruit, BBQ and naked people.

So, now that I am done with my kabuki posts, it's on to the sillier things. I want to just point out real quick that this post should be dated 06/20.

On the 20th of June, Saturday, was the Bus Tour out to Yamanashi prefecture. This was set up by the Yokohama Buddies. Apparently how it works is that the Shirokane Buddies get fall and the Yokohama buddies get the spring trip, but it was all cool. I feel very lucky that I even got to go on this, there were a very small amount of spots open for the trip and they had to do a drawing of the people who actually signed up on time. A lot of people forgot and weren't even allowed to sign up late; bad for them but it was great for me. Luckily for me I was one of the people called to go. Actually, I was surprised that all of the Washington College students were drawn for the trip, but it was really lucky for us. I had really wanted to go for two reasons; 1.) there was going to be free BBQ and I LOVE free food especially when it is cooked over open flame, 2.)I had never been to an onsen, which is one of the things you MUST do when you go to Japan and that was going to be the big ending for this trip. So I had been praying really hard, and I guess someone listened (shout out to the powers that be.)

Anyways, we were supposed to meet in Totsuka, which is where the Yokohama campus of Meiji Gakuin is, really REALLY early (7:30am) so we would have enough time to get over there. Totsuka is a good ways away, so Danyelle went with me and we left around 6am I think, maybe a bit earlier (I believe I woke up at 5.) A lot of people actually didn't make it because they didn't get going earlier enough, which was kind of a downer cause it meant other people could have come, but se la vie.

We get to Totsuka, right on time. Start meeting up with other people from Shirokanedai. We are trying to find the meeting place, which we all think is some kind of food court type thing that is supposed to be outside one of the exits. We get to said exit and don't see the place we are supposed to be looking for. We end up calling one of the buddies and telling them to come find us cause we don't know where they are. It ends up "right outside the exit" was down the road and across and intersection and more like a super market. Oh well, someone gets us and we get there, actually a while before everyone else does. People keep spilling in for some time after we get to the bus.

Now, about this bus. The bus was pimped out. It had chandeliers on the ceiling, something kinda like disco dance floor lights as runners on the ceiling in different primary colors, and like gold and black fur de lies theme every where. I believe the giant plaque at the front of the bus said "King of Resort" which the UofC guys behind my seat found very funny and were referencing continually the entire trip. But the bus was pretty bamf. It even had a karaoke system, which we put to good use on the way back to Totsuka.

So we finally get going, almost an hour late, but what do you expect from college kids. The drive down to Yamanashi was really nice. I liked looking at the scenery. We must have gone over some mountain range because it got very lumpy. It was amazing seeing the huge steeply slopping mountains that looked like something out of a watercolor scroll. And the rivers and irrigation ditches winding between the terraced rice patties. It was really pretty to go through the Japanese country-side. I enjoyed seeing mountains again, even if they were completely different from the rolling ones you find in Appalachia.

Another thing that amazed me about the trip; Japanese rest stops. They are amazing. They have so many different souvenir shops and restaurants, and even farmers markets. And they were all so clean, it was amazing. I really liked the ones we stopped at, though we were lucky (I guess) to only need to stop once going and once coming. We had an awesome view of Fuji-yama from the rest stop coming, and going and we stayed under the mountain for most of the rest of the trip.

We finally got to the farm. It was really pretty and we were in for a surprise. We had originally though we were only going to pick cherries, but we also got to pick plums and peaches. Though we were only allowed to pick from one peach tree, and that poor tree had nothing on it once we were done with it. I actually liked the plums and so focused on them, though I did get a really good peach from the tree, but didn't go back for seconds.

After we left the peach and plum half of the orchard, we piled back on the bus and drove a little ways down the road where we got off the bus again and walked to the netted green houses where they had the cherries. The cherries were some of the most beautiful cherries I have ever seen. I perfect crimson red. And soo sooooo sweet. I am used to the black cherries we get more in VA, or even the white cherries, but they aren't that sweet, and the black cherries are down right sour in comparison. They were so wonderful, I really did stuff my face so much, it was ridiculous. I was stripping trees of fruit, or at least the ripe and good stuff. It was a lot of fun just in the act of picking the cherries. It kinda reminded me of the pick your own places where I live. I had a lot of fun running around and looking for the best fruit.

Once we had gorged our selves on fruit we walked over to the BBQ area. They had a few oil drums cut in half and set up on little legs as makeshift fire pits. They worked really well though surprisingly. They also had little grates or pans to put on top of them. We ended up doing kinda a B.S.ed BBQ because they only had the uber-thin cut meat that seems to be all they have in Japan. It's kinda depressing, I was hoping for a T-bone or a nice Chicken breast, but beggers can't be choosers, and meat is meat, and it's something we don't really get that often. It was really good too. We also had veggies, which are another luxury we don't get that often as poor college students in Japan. I grilled to my hearts content and ate till I litteraly couldn't eat anymore. And they had MARSHMELLOWS! I was so pleased. I think I had like 15 or so.

Then we all pilled back on the bus to digest a bit. I was waddling, I won't lie. We drove a pretty good distance to get to the Onsen. I was much more digested when we got there. Now, the issue with the onsen is that I am a touch self concious about my body. And most Americans at least have a very different opinion of public nudity than the Japanese bath culture has. It's not one is wrong ect. its just a cultural difference. What is considered bonding in Japan is awkward in America. But I was determined to give it a shot, because it is a big major cultural thing, and actually sounded like fun once you got used to it.

The Onsen was actually a BUNCH smaller than I thought it would be. I was expecting like a giant swimming center like place, at least on the outside. Or maybe like a really pretty landscaped place. But it kinda looked like a Moose Lodge. I actually felt kinda bad, when the bus pulled up to the curve I actually exclaimed "is this IT?!" which got a laugh out of a lot of people. I really didn't know what to expect though and in my mind I thought it would be bigger, or at least a bit nicer looking. Also, I had been hopping it would be one of the outside ones with the rock out-cropping. But no such luck their either.

We got into the Onsen. Like most places in Japan it had the little cubbyholes for your shoes at the door and we all got a pair of slippers to wear around. We all took a seat on the little cushions in a big tatami matted "rest room" and waited to be told what to do and where to go. By now most people were either excited or really nervous about getting in the onsen. I was kind of at the point where I was going to do it and there was no going back. I am anything if not determined.

We finally were able to go into the little room in back where they had a changing room and little laundry baskets in cubbys for your clothes and towels. Also a sink and scale, maybe people try and loose weight by subjecting them selves to large amounts of heat. But once we got in there I did it. I think I was the second one in the actual onsen room, which was seperated from the changing room by a slidding glass door.

They had little stools and buckets in front of a mirror almost like a little vanity area with a shower head. The showers in Japan have multi-function set ups, they have the usual shower head, which also usually has a high and low water preasure nob. And they also have a faucet function so you could fill up a tub, but in Japan its usually meant for filling up buckets to rinse quickly with. The little vanity shower areas also had body wash and shampoo. You have to shower very thuroughly before entering an onsen in order to keep the water clean and for the other guests benefit. Its actually nice to just shower off in the steamy room, that was kinda fun in it's self.

The actual bath part kind of reminded me of the rowning practice boxes they have in the boat house at my college. A giant wooden box built into the floor. It had another smaller wooden bow next to it with a little dividing step. We were told that the big one held the hot water and the other one was a cold water dunking pool. Quickly most people found that the dunking pool was a great idea. The water was really really hot, but very nice. You could tell it was a little different from tap water, it felt smoother, also a little more boiant, though that could have been because it was so hot. It definitely had some mineral content in it. One of the oba-chan who was in their before we got there said it made your skin smooth, and it really really did.

I was amazed how un-awkward it was once we all actually got in the pool. We all kept making jokes about how we weren't going to be able to talk to any of the people present with a straight face ever again, but it wasn't weird. It felt comfortable to me. No one was doing that comparing thing that girls are really good at, which was what I thought would be the main issue. It was really nice just relaxing in the warm water. I'm pretty sure I turned the red of a lobster after a while just cause of how hot the water was. I had to get up and dunk my self in the cool water box a few times just because I was starting to get woozie. I almost burned my self when I swam to close to the little tap/box thing that the water came out of. It was really hot. I wonder if it come out of the spring that hot or if they heat it up before hand. I'd be impressed if that was the temperature it came up at.

Everyone ended up crammed into the cool pool at some point, just to keep from passing out from full stomachs and the heat. We ended up roatating so that a few people would get into the cool box and a few people would leave the cool box at the same time, but the cool box was the more crowded of the two, partly I guess because it was a forth the size. I really did enjoy it though, and I still spent most of my time in the hot water pool. So nice and waaaaarm! <3

I really want to go to and Onsen again, we are thinking of going to this really big and kinda famous one in Odaiba. We sadly only got to stay there for an hour, I would have liked to stay longer but I think I would have been too well done at that point, so maybe it was a good thing to keep Eve from being hard-boiled. They had a little gift shop where you could get some food stuffs. I bought a thing of ice cream (crem-brule, mmm) and a big pack of candied ginger that a nursed for almost 2 weeks after going, it was really really good. I have decided that I actually liked that Onsen. The small size was kind of nice, especially for a first time Onsen go-er, it was a very friendly size and still remained a little less open, so it was kind of nice.

The drive back seemed to take longer. I slept for part of it, and got a horrible crick in my neck, but I felt better. At some point they turned on the karaoke set, and there was a bit of singing, but we were almost home by then, so it didn't really matter.

All in all it was a very very fun trip. I really enjoyed it. Shout out to CICE for helping set it up. And a big thanks to the buddies for all the organizing.

And that is the tale of my first time in an Onsen.
WOOT! Getting Naked!

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