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"You wouldn't believe how cold it was walking the fifty feet to get to the pool. There was nothing but ice between the door and the water, and at one point I thought my foot was going to stick to the ground.. Then I reached the water and it was nice. Just me and the guys, naked, and safe behind the shield of steam that blinded everything but sound."
- Ryan Roling

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Japan

If snow were water
by Ryan Roling, 25, Asahikiwa, Japan
Mar 6, 2000

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Japan

This weekend I experienced something that has got to be unique to Japan. Just imagine for a second, you and your co-workers rent a bus with a driver, head out to the mountains with a lot of beer and your only objective is to drink and sit around together in a large tub of water.

I don't know about you, but it was the first time for me. Oh, I've gone to the public bath before, but this was a planned trip. A party.

The teacher's baseball team from the high school I am teaching at, decided it was time for some team bonding. So, they organized a weekend in the mountains to relax in an onsen. An onsen is a natural hot spring bath. Japan is a volcanic nation and so underneath the surface flows hot, sometimes boiling, water. Being in the land of technology and vacationing (and who vacations more than the Japanese?), they have learned to harness the water and bring it to convenient pools both indoors and outside.

We went to Asahidake, which is in the middle of Japan's largest national park. It was cold outside, but the place we stayed was nothing short of cozy.

We stayed nine men to a room, with all of us sleeping on the floor using the futons they provided. If you ever go to Asahidake, don't worry about packing anything. Everything is provided for you, from dinner to the bath robe, to breakfast and a toothbrush. (Of course you pay for it. Our little excursion lasted from 6pm on Saturday until 9:30 am on Sunday and cost each of us about $110. Most of that I suppose was for the alcohol, which really stinks if you hate the taste of bitter, fermented fluids.)

We got there and the first thing everyone did was strip down and put on these dress-like thingies, and head for the water. We first went to the outside onsen. You wouldn't believe how cold it was walking the fifty feet to get to the pool. There was nothing but ice between the door and the water, and at one point I thought my foot was going to stick to the ground like "Flick's" tongue stuck to the pole in "A Christmas Story". Then I reached the water and it was nice. Just me and the guys, naked, and safe behind the shield of steam that blinded everything but sound.

Not long after we all had to leave because dinner was prepared.

The set of food they laid before us was something else. The Japanese really pay attention to detail. Not only in art, and such things as their writing system, but in the preparation of food. It was almost like a work of art. But, I was hungry so there was little time for appreciation. I dug right into my plate of raw fish and cooked vegetables. I was so hungry I even enjoyed the egg pudding with shrimp and scallops.

Where are we moving to next?

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