Sunday, May 21, 2006

japanese-style pajama party

Vocabulary: onsen = hot spring ; yukata = cotton kimono

There’s something about onsen towns that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed. Maybe it’s the leisurely soaks in the hot baths, the personal maid who brings you tea and snacks, or the fancy dinner served in your room. But I really think it’s the yukata.

You are escorted to your room, the maid brings tea, and five minutes later, the entire party changes into the hotel-provided yukata. This simple cotten kimono will be your clothing, robe, and pajamas for the next two days. You wear it to the bath, you wear it to karaoke. The main souvenir street is filled with people taking evening strolls in their yukata and geta. When it gets chilly, you put on the haori yukata overcoat for your trip to the foot bath.

I learned all of this when The Family took me to Arima this weekend. Arima Onsen is purported to be the oldest hot spring in Japan. We spent two days bathing, eating, wandering, singing karaoke, and relaxing in our yukata. It was all of our first times to go to an onsen specifically for the onsen. Onsen trips are probably the most popular package tours in Japan, but our experiences had been to visit the hot springs only after skiing or playing frisbee. It didn’t take long for our worries about boredom and calculations of how many times we should enter the bath to be forgotten as we enjoyed walking around the little town and eating a splendid meal. Sakura even obliged a very drunk man by dancing during his karaoke performance.

It was a shame to leave this morning, and and I was sad to be unable to take my yukata with me. But I got to keep the little onsen towel and the tabi socks, so I will always be able to remember these two days of walking around in my pajamas with fondness.

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