Well, I should begin this post by expressing my thanks that no one was seriously hurt by the earthquake on the Big Island, and that it sounds like everything is more or less intact. I wish that there was something I could do to help, but when it comes down to it, the most I can do over here is wish you the best of luck.
Anyway, this weekend Mom and Dad came to Japan!!! I had wanted to go to an Onsen with them, and I was extremely forunate that Ann was kind enough to make all the reservations for us. So on Friday night I took the train to Minakami.
And then got on a bus bound for Takaragawa Onsen. I arrived earlier than expected, and easily in time for dinner. It was really good to see Dad and Mom. Dinner was well presented, and served in our room. Here is mom with her chow. I think she looks quite Japanese in this picture.
Since Mom is the exact size of the average Japanese woman of her age, things were perfectly sized for her, I think. Sitting seiza style aslo does not seem to have been a problem. Anyway, here is my fish cooking. Man was that a good fish. Far better than the other meat that was served with dinner.
Bear. When the woman who served us our food brought this in and said it was bear soup, I thought "bear" was the name for some vegetable. After all, Kitsune (fox) Udon does not contain real fox, and Tanuki "raccoon" Udon does not contain raccoon. Nin (one of the words for people) niku (meat) is garlic, not human flesh. So I was convinced that it could not be real bear. Plus then John started saying it was real bear, and I took that as a good sign that it might not be real bear. But the woman was insistent. It was real bear meat. Farm raised. Sure enough, it was not beef.
perhaps you are wondering if I ate the bear soup. Well, the bear was already dead, and us not eating the soup was not likely to register as a protest to the chef. To not eat the bear would be wasteful and disrespectful to the bear. That was my reasoning for taking two bites. Add it to the list. Bear meat, like whale meat, is not delicious. Just like whale, it tastes like over cooked duck, but with a whole lot less fat than whale. I strongly DON'T recommend bear.
Aside from the bear, the Onsen was fantastic. There were four pools, 3 mixed sex and 1 women only pool. After dinner we went and soaked in the hot water. John and I went to the hot pool, and took an illegal dip in the freezing cold river during our time in the hot pool, while Ann, Mom and Dad went to the luke warm pool. It was all very beautiful. So beautiful that I decided to get up at 4 in the morning and take pictures of the pools while no one was in them. Here is the main pool.
Another part of the Main Pool (the hot one).
Here is the luke warm pool.
And the hot pool again.
Me, where the water comes out of the ground. By the way, swimming alone at 4 in the morning in a hot spring in the woods is both really fun and really reminiscent of a horror film.
Here is our whole party on our way to the baths the next morning.
And this is the valley where the baths are. There nothing over those mountains except more mountains.
And here is the hotel.
In case you are wondering, mixed sex bathing is not that embarassing for me, though I can see how it could be quite frightening if you were a woman. Especially since sometimes the guys hardly even make an effort to cover up with thier towels on their way out of the bath.
After the morning bath we checked out. Dad, Mom and I took the bus back to Minakami.
Where we took the train to Shibukawa.
Here they are at the Hezo Jizo. They weren't willing to show me their belly buttons, which would have made this picture more natural and more interesting.
And here we are eating Yaki Manju, the Gunma specialty food. They didn't seem that impressed.
And here is me at SATY. I filled up my card which means that I have brought my own bag 20 times. Doing my part to reduce consumption of plastics also got me a 100 yen discount today!
It was great for mom and dad to see were I live. They were greatly relieved to see that I have a fairly comfortable existence and tried to make my existence more comfortable by buying me a quilt so that I will survive the winter.
Shibukawa is a blast, and you should all come and visit me sometime, but there was a festival in Maebashi, so I decided to leave the Shibukawa sights (the Sibukawa art center, Chasson museum, the vegetable stand in Komochi, etc.) for their next trip. We went to Maebashi and saw all of the local Maebashi elementary school brass bands in a parade. I now realize why one of my schools' brass bands placed third in nationals! Grammar school brass bands are not normally that good. Still the parents that are running along side the parade so that they can videotape their son or daughter for the whole parade are really cute.
Here is the festival proper.
After Maebashi, we took the Shinkansen down to Tokyo and met up with Manabu in Harajuku. We tried to connect with Takaya and Koki, but it just didn't work out. Manabu was great, as always. He took us to a natural food restaurant, where, as always happens, we fought over the bill.
The next day, Mom, Dad and I wandered around Tokyo doing random errands and sightseeing but basically just hanging out together. Here is a security camera we encountered that did not intimidate me at all, but sure made me realize how soon I am going to be bald. It's getting pretty thin up there. Maybe I have been running so fast recently during my training that the wind has been ripping it out.
Speaking of body changes, I finally realized how much weight I have lost since coming to Japan and beginning marathon training. 20 pounds. Where did I lose that weight from, is my question? My earlobes? I don't feel like I lost 20 pounds. That's Japan for you though. Weightloss in Japan is a breeze. What rhymes with breeze? Japanese. Finally, I was able to buy some textbooks. Now hopefully my study of the language will have some structure.
Here are Dad and Mom at Meiji Jingu.
And in a Yaki Niku shop on top of Yodobashi Camera in Akihabra. Doesn't Dad look happy to see that meat? Cow meat.
The unfortunate part of Mom and Dad's time with me was that it wasn't that long (and I was slightly sick the whole time). We only got to spend 2 days together. They will be in Tokyo with John and Ann for the rest of their trip. Hopefully, though, this is the first trip of many for them. Hope they enjoyed themselves. And thanks for the quilt, it is getting quite chilly.
So, when are the rest of you coming?