Monday, March 26, 2012

A Lone Bather at Q Kamura

A Train Ride North
The train headed north takes us past open fields covered with bits of snow and alongside distant mountains. We are past Tokyo, past Sendai, we are headed to Akita. We arrive noting snow banks aligning the roads are reaching second stories. Spring must come late here.

First the train and Shinkansen, then a twisty bus ride past a glorious lake, until finally, our hotel. A display of children's crafts sits off from the lobby, made with pieces of wood, paint, and paper. Crafts for a long winter. I like the thought of staying inside and making things.


Snow Piles
Snow is piled up past the windows. We are on the third floor. I marvel. The only sign of spring is that the icicles are dripping in the morning light. It is very early. My family is still sleeping as I stare out the window sipping cups of spring water.
Spring Break, Akita, Japan
A Hot Bath
Slippers scuff along the hallways as early morning bathers make their way toward the onsen's hot waters. Before immersing into the heat and steam, one must first wash.

Sitting on a low stool, facing a spigot and hand shower, a dial indicates blue for cold and red for hot at forty degrees Celsius. First, I fill the small round bowl to check the water's temperature. The room is drafty, cold to the naked bather. The onsen waters to my left steam upward.

Large bottles with pumps sit on the shelf- shampoo, body soap, and conditioner. They have English labels and a picture of a running horse. I wonder, Is it for a horse or made from a horse? I don't want to use it until I know but there is nothing else. The face soap is made from green tea and has a pleasant smell. I wash, starting with my feet and legs, then as I acclimate to the water and the room, my hands and arms.

I fill the bowl with the warm milky water and pour it under my chin, enjoying the warmth that spreads down the front of my body. I reach to my back, stretching to wash. I rinse and rinse, then rinse again. It is pleasant to rinse and to be sure there is no soap. I wring out my small towel and set it near the edge but out of the water. I warm up in the inside onsen pool of warm water, then I head outside taking my small towel.

A chill runs through me as I step into a small puddle of melting ice with only a few more steps to paradise. There is one bather present. I try to go slow but the wind blows, and I can't stifle a shiver as I sink from the cold into the heat. The other bather departs.

I am alone in the hot water gazing at the hundreds of buna beech trees with snow still clinging to them. Snow surrounds the onsen fence, sits on the ledge, and spills over forming mounds in the corners that top the fence and meet the snow on the otherside. The wind blows again, but this time I am in the water. My head lays against the edge of the onsen while the remainder of me floats extending outward in the warmth of the water. The trees dance and mingle. They are tall, taller and larger than any beech I remember in the States. So much snow is some how peaceful to the lone bather with no thoughts of spring.
The buna beech forrest of Akita