So, I went to Kusatsu with the 2nd grade teachers I work with. The trip mostly good, but I found all the Japanese exhausting. Kusatsu is the most famous onsen (hot spring) town in Gunma. Yes, it was my first onsen (communal nude bathing) experience. And oh, it sure was interesting. (before you ask... don't worry... the male and female areas are kept separate at this particular onsen!) I went with Takagi sensei, who showed me all the proper bathing etiquette... you have to sit on a stool first and shower yourself nice and clean, then you hold a miniscule towel over your privates and get into the water... oh, but don't put the towel in the water! That really goes against the bathing rules. Apparently the water in Kusatsu is particularly hot and strong, so we had to remove all jewelery and make sure we didn't stay in the water more than about 4 minutes. Takagi sensei kept telling me to be careful about this. Well, we enjoyed the indoor bath for a couple minutes and then went to the outdoor bath. I liked that the best. It was so refreshing to feel the cold air breeze across my face.
After a few minutes, we decided to go inside. As Takagi sensei was opening the glass door, she fell in a faint!! It took me a second to figure out what happened because first she seemed to be just leaning against the glass, and then she slumped down. I hate to admit that my first thought was, "Oh my goodness! We're both naked! I don't want to have to carry her! How do I carry her and cover my privates at the same time!!!" Luckily she came to quickly. I helped her inside where she lay down on a bench. She was fine... just scraped a couple of fingers. But she was really pale and shaky for about 20 minutes. And she was QUITE embarrassed after the fact. I simply thanked her for giving me such a memorable first onsen experience.
Later that night, after our parties, Koyama sensei decided to make a quick trip to the onsen before going to sleep. It was around 1am. She went by herself and said there were about 3 other women in the bathing area with her. They were all very shocked when suddenly, a drunk man entered the bathing area! I lost most of the rest of the story in the translation, but needless to say, we all had pretty exciting bathing experiences this weekend. My Japanese friends assure me this is not the norm.
Anyhow, Kusatsu was absolutely gorgeous. Amazing skiing, great onsen, cute little town. I'm glad I went, even if my head hurt a little from all the Japanese!