It was time to go home. Back to Ota. Our plan for the day was simple: go to the last onsen of the Honguu area, and then hit the highway and drive all the way back. It was Saturday morning, and Joanne needed to be back and teaching on Monday.
The first dilemma of the day: 3 hungry Westerners who were absolutely UNWILLING to have udon or any other Japanese quick-fix for breakfast. Normally not a problem. Just hit a convenience store. But for once, we had gotten ourselves so in the middle of beautiful nowhere, that there weren't even any of those in sight. Panic set in. And then, we saw this: a convenience store on wheels. This guy was driving the streets, selling his unlikely mix of foods, including -YAY- bread products. We were so excited we couldn't even wait to get in the car to eat!
With bellies full, we went to Yunomine Onsen. It was another incredibly quaint stretch of town, and clearly an onsen source. The water bubbling through town was all boiling hot. You could buy all manner of food that you could then put into this caged-off area to cook. Yes, that's right. Boiling water just bubbling up from the earth. As you can see, eggs were a popular choice, although we also saw people boiling potatoes and even garlic. You could also try coffee brewed with onsen water. I quite liked this although it didn't agree with Joanne that much.
This is a picture of the onsen area in the town, with the boiling source water on the left. This onsen offers a choice of hot spring baths. You can use the regular style bath, or you can try the "kusuri onsen" ... medicine hot springs, where the water is 100% hot spring water, and really stinking hot!! Joanne and I went for the second option. It was really old school, hard core bathing. A small change room, and then an equally small bathing area, with taps where you could rinse yourself off, and then one deep, square bath. And no soap allowed in the bathing area at all. I guess they want to make sure to keep the water totally pure. We stunk like sulfur after this one.
This bath is the third option. I believe it's called "tsubo no yu." It is a little shack of a bath house. What you see is what you get. It holds a max of two people. You pay and then get the shack to yourself. You'd think people might take advantage of the system and take exhorbitantly long baths. No chance of that. Shortly after seeing someone enter the shack, we would soon hear exclamations of "atsui! ATSUI!" (hot! HOT!). And soon after that, said bathers would emerge very red-faced. Not worth the price of admission, if you ask me. But a neat idea.
After lingering in the town most of the morning, Jeff and Jo managed to drag me out. I really didn't want to leave. I really didn't want it to all be over.
And then we drove. And drove. And drove. Just for fun, here's what Joanne's view was most of the trip.
We arrived in Ota at 2 in the morning, and crashed at a crazy place called the "Mongolian Spa." If you want to know the full story, ask us. But it involves wearing colour-coordinated towel-like outfits, and sleeping in a room full of loudly snoring strangers on blue mats. Ya. Only in Japan.
In the morning, Jeff thankfully dropped me off at Mikiko's before he drove Joanne to the train station where she caught her train back to the jungle of Tokyo. If you didn't believe me before, here's the proof: the Daihatsu, post-trip, in front of Mikiko's apartment. We really did it. Three of us. And it really was that packed full. The whole time. It's a good thing Joanne's short and we all have keenly developed senses of humour is all I can say.
Can I get a wooo-oo wooo-oo?! ;)