OK, it`s been a long 24-36 hours. Sorry for not posting a new blog until now. It will not happen again! OK, no promises. Anyways let me tell you all about my day.
First of all one of my readers invited all of us to a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The four of us, Judith, and Sugao left the churhc at around 10 this morning. We got to her house and prepared for the ceremony. Apparently she does this every year, not sure though. We all sat down for a minute and then we just repeated what she did. We first went outside and there was a bowl of ice water. We had to grab the ladle and pour water over our hands. Then we put some water in our mouth and spit it out. This is to resemble cleansing or something, not exactly sure. Anyways, next came the actual ceremony. There was a little hidden door, and when opened there was a little room with tatami mats. These mats are very expensive no shoes of any kind are to be worn on them. We then had to all fit inside of the little room. Then came the sweets. The tea is very bitter so the sweets help to dull the tea. The "sweets" as they call them, are really not that sweet. I think that it was some sort of melon/sweet bean gelatin of some sort. It was actually very tasty. Then the tea is served to one person at a time. First was Sugao, he had done it before so he knew what to do. Next was Judith, Bryan, me, Tyrel, and then Tyler. What you do is grab the bowl and place it in the palm of your left hand. The art work on the bowl is facing you, so you turn the bowl three times and you drink from the back. You are suppose to drink it all in 3 gulps, and you cannot leave anything in there. It is very bitter and very hot. After you drink it, you take your fingers and wipe the area that you just drank from. You then place it in your left palm and turn it again with your right hand. You place the bowl on the floor and the art work on it is facing you again. You are suppose to admire the artwork. Then, she let us all make a bowl of tea. There are very strict rules in how to do everything, and it all has to be done perfect. Sugao went first and she made him do it over again because he messed up. It is a lot of work to make a little bowl of tea, and it would take forever to describe it. To make a long story short, it was hard and took quite a while, but it was educating and fun. After we exited the small room, she served us lunch. Wow, we had a real Japanese feast. First, we were given tofu salad. It actually was not to bad. Then we were served this rice, seaweed, ginger, mushroom, salmon eggs, and mystery meat combo/casserole. It was cold by the way. Yeah, my dice. It wasnt that great and the salmon eggs were just....well....they were gross. Then we had some tempura. It was delicious. We had shrimp, pumpkin (we call it butter-nut squash, but they call it pumpkin), eggplant, fish, and a leaf. Tempura is fried. It was all very good, even the leaf. We were also served this tofu soup and pickled cucumbers (delicious), and what I think was green beans. For dessert we had melon, cherries, and watermelon. That was good. We also had buckwheat tea, and it is to strong for me. We then left and that was the tea ceremony part of our day. It was all very unique and exciting. Definately a once in a life time experience. I highly reccomend it.
Next, we rode the train into Omika and met Mike there so we could go play some disc golf. If you have never heard of the game, it originated in the states in the 80`s and is huge in Japan. Basically you play just like golf. You have your driver, all purpose disc, the short distance disc, and your putter. Instead of a hole there is a metal basket that you have to put your disc into. It is SO MUCH FUN!!! I highly recommend it. The holes are not that long, and this was a 27 hole course and it took us almost 2 hours to play. I got a couple of pars, lots of bogeys, and no birdies. A couple of Mikes and Bryans almost got hole in ones. It was quite exciting. The longest hole was 99 meters. I think the average was about 40 meters. It was a blast. I only used a putter and all purpose disc and I was fine. If there is a disc golf course near you (3 in Lubbock! can oyu believe it) you seriously need to go. AMAZING!!!
Next, we went to the rahmen shop for dinner and I was starving. I ordered two plates of gyoza!! Thats like 10 dumplings. I ate nine of them and gave the other one to Tyrel. He loved it. We had to be at the Hitachi church at 7:30 for a praise concert that Mike and some of our readers were singing in. It was great. After the concert they had snacks, and I found my new favorite candy- blueberry kit kats. Delicious!!! I dont think they have them in the states, but if they do, try them. After the concert the guys talked us in to going to the onsen. The 4 of us went, along with Sugao, Judith, Mike, Rusty, and this guy Matt. Tyler and I were hesitant about going, but we are so glad we did. Let me tell you what an onsen is. It is basically a hot bath. There is a place for the guys to go, and a place for the women to go so we are all seperated. When you first walk into the building, you take your shoes off and place 100 yen into a locker to keep them there. Then you turn your key in and they give you a bracelet. There is a bar code on it, so everytime you buy something from the kitchen or vending machines, you just scan the barcode. Dont worry, at this point we are all still together and fully clothed. There are table you can go and sit and eat at. We allwent outside and had a brief meeting. It was very foggy so you could not see the ocen, but you could hear it and it was so loud. After the meeting we all went our separate ways. When you get into he female part, (from what I understand, it is the exact same on the guys side as well), and it is like a big locker room. You put all of your stuff inside of a locker and place another 100 yen in. You get undressed, and you are only allowed a little towel to wear, seriously, its not big enough to cover anything up. You then go into the shower room and shower. You have to wash your body and hair before you can get in the baths. After you soap down, you can go anywhere. The first one we went to was the silk bath. It was amazing. It was so hot, adn my skin felt like a babies. There is actual silk in the water and it is wonderful. We then went to the jets. This one is like a hot tub. You sit in the water and powerful jets massage your body. This is all still inside. There is also a sauna and a cold pool. It is very cold. That is used for when you get out of the hot baths to avoid overheating. It is very nice. You then go outside and there is this huge hot bath that is jsut hot water and it overlooks the ocean. For the female side there is like smoky glass so that noone from the beach can see into the onsen. It was too foggy to see anything anyway. Then they have what we call "tea cups". They are little personal hot baths used for one person. You can actually fit about 5 in there, not comfortably mind you, because we actually saw it. Those are really hot. Then there are the rocks on the ground with a little stream of hot water running over them. You go and lay down and let me tell you, it was the best thing ever!! Tyler and I are not really sleeping on mattresses, they are more like these thin cushions, so our backs have kinda been bothering us. Anyway, that takes out all of the tension in your back. The whole onsen is just a wonderful way to get rid of stress anf sore muscles. It was truly amazing. It was almost closing time (1 am), so we jumped in the silk bath a little more and then bathed again. We went back into the locker room and dried off and changed. You get your 100 yen back once you get your stuff out of the locker. We then went to pay and the guys were behind us. It is only 500 yen (less than 5 us dollar) and you can stay all day if you want. We apid and then went ot get our shoes. Again,you get your 100 yen back when your get your shoes out. We put our shoes on outside and just sat there letting the cool breeze wash over us. Was an amazing experience. Things like this would not happen in the states. People are so obsessed with personal looks that they would not want to do the onsen. They would probabky wear their swimsuits or something. It is just amazing and so relaxing. Again, I highly recommend it. Amazing is all I can say.
Well guys, that was my full filled, long, hard day. It was a blast!! I plan to sleep in until noon and then I am going with Tyrel to one of his readers house. He lives in the mountains like 1and a half hours away and in a traditional Japanese house. He is going to give us a tour of the country side, we will make paper? and have dinner. Judith is driving us so we dont have to take the train. It will be a blast. The guy come that far just to read here. We get to meet his wife and his daughter and grandkids. He is so excited. Well I guess that I better get to bed. I know that I will sleep great tonight!! The onsen has me so relaxed. Good night people, and I will report about my day with Hajime tomorrow!!