Later that Same Day
Climbing Mount Fuji was hard and strenuous. Coming down was painful and dirtying. Given the hotel had a traditional Japanese onsen, that was high on the list of priorities for many people. I was a little hesitant, because I’d never done that sort of thing before. But given I’d managed to make it that far without using a Japanese toilet (always opting for the Western-style ones. Because all the toilets in the west have heated seats and options to play music) I figured it was time to try something traditional. And a public bath sounded like far more fun.
An onsen has two different steps to it. The first is the actual getting clean step. Despite being called a public bath, you clean yourself in the shower. The shower had a moveable head, and there was soap and shampoo and conditioner nearby.
There were a lot of different places for showers, and many of them were filled with girls from my course. It was during that time that we all discovered sunburns. Mount Fuji is the kind of place that laughs at people who say ‘I don’t burn.’ I’d put on sunscreen at the beginning of the day, but forgotten afterwards. Fortunately, the only parts that were exposed was part of my neck, my face, and the back of my hands. So there are slight burns there, but not nearly as bad as some of the other girls had. (Only one person had the foresight to have any kind of sunburn soother. She quickly became very popular.)
There were three public baths in the hotel where we stayed. One was just a standard, hot water bath. (I say ‘standard,’ meaning ‘standard for an onsen.’ It was quite hot, and quite pleasant.) Another was the same thing, only partially outside. That was the favorite one of many people, since it was nice scenery, pleasant temperature, and the bath water felt significantly different from the not-water. Besides, there were people talking there, so it was more social. Then there was a ‘massaging bath’ which had jets and bubbles coming out. (Apparently the male side didn’t have the massaging bath. They had the regular one, but I’m not even sure they had the open-air one.) I tried all three, but stayed longest in the open-air bath. (There was also a sauna, but I didn’t try that.)
After relaxing there for a bit, we realized it was probably about dinner time (going roughly off a shared sense of time) so we got out and got dressed. Specifically, most of us got dressed in yukatas. They were provided by the hotel, and, for me at least, was the perfect compromise. I’d brought exactly three days worth of clothes, two of them were dirty, and there was still another day left to go. I didn’t want to change back into dirty clothing, and I didn’t want to change into the clothing for tomorrow. So a yukata it was.
It’s kind of funny, because, with all of the different languages, the greatest miscommunication occurs in two people who speak the same language. Like during dinner, when one girl adjusted how she was sitting, and made a comment about how she wasn’t wearing pants underneath. A girl from England’s head shot up. ‘What?’ It only took a moment for the first girl to understand. ‘I’m wearing underwear underneath.’ I think the English girl was still slightly annoyed at her word choice.
Dinner was good, though I’m kind of tired of traditional Japanese food. They brought out tempura after we’d had time to eat, creating the illusion that it was dessert without being as tasty. But then they brought out fruit after that, so that was wonderful. (There wasn’t anyone sitting on one side of me, but there was a place sat. Someone had already taken the rice, so I took that fruit too.) After, we went to a ‘graduation ceremony.’ It was much shorter than every other graduation ceremony I’d been to. But we each got a certificate, and a booklet with two pictures in it (nice to know all that standing/squatting around in the sun served some purpose) and got to see everyone else in the class do the same.