Snail mail is still cool

Yes we think so too. Because wherever we go, we try to buy postcard(s) and post them to ourselves and our friends. Today we fondly look through these cards that we have “collected” from around the world.

This article (here) though speaks about the seeming herculean effort that is required to bring the mail down from the top of a 12,000+ feet high mountain to send it all around the world. But you know we don’t focus our posts on these linked stories.

Instead we refer to the fact that as pen and paper goes the way of the Dodo, a chapter would have passed when we can physically hold a piece of memory in our hands. As opposed to having all of it on our digital devices. We don’t know about you, but we surely feel different being able to flip the post cards and reading our almost illegible and faded handwriting. On a sunny afternoon, sitting together looking out from our little box in the sky (ie apartment), we enjoy leafing through these memories.

Call us old school. Who cares?

The only disadvantage is that with the fading, these old cards and documents do have a limited life. Whereas digital supposedly keeps them for perpetuity (read our VR views here). What are we to do?

Do you still send snail mail?

Naked hot baths in Japan

As the provocative title suggests, it literally means bathing in your birthday suit.

No joke here, it’s all real and in the hot baths it is really required to be naked save for a small towel. Now, I would imagine that the Nordics would be familiar with this – since there are also geyser baths in places like Iceland. So while ‘skinny dipping’ would seem to be negative in the western sense, it is perfectly normal here. Japan being on the pacific ring of fire means that hot springs (they are called ‘Onsen” here) are numerous.

But etiquettes still apply, and it is extremely important that one clean oneself before dipping into the hot soothing mineral water. This will help assure all other users that the water remains hygienic. Also, most Onsen is designated single-sex only and mixed baths are less occurring. That should help the shy ones.

Only when you have dipped into the piping hot broth of mineral water (each spring has its own unique mix), will you know the feeling of warmth especially during this period of harsh cold winter.

Maruei Ryokan Open air bath16
Enjoy the view while you soak in the warm mineral waters

As the temperature of the water varies, you will to be careful how long you stay in the bath. The recommendation is that if temperature is >42°C, stay no more than 10 minutes submerged in the water. Even for baths with a lower temperature if is not recommended to stay more than 20 minutes. It is actually my own practice to dip for 5 minutes and then sit out of the water for 1-2 minutes before submerging into the alluring warmth of the spring.

In most hot-spring inns (Ryokan they call them here) or public bath houses, there are dressing areas where you can not only dry your self and re-clothe, but also preen yourself. All manner of personal care  amenities are usually available.

Maruei Ryokan Open air bath8
See the certificates in the top right of the picture?

During our drive through the five lakes of Mount Fuji, we had the pleasure of staying in two Ryokans and experiencing the mineral riches of two different springs.

Normally it is not allowed to take photos in the bath, but we had arrived at 3pm and went to the bath when there was nobody. So, the trick is to either bath when nobody else wants to, or bath very late when no one will do.

Really enjoyable way to end your day especially these last few days of sub-zero temperatures!

First report from Japan

Our first blog post since leaving for Japan…

We had been driving amongst the lakes to the north of Mount Fuji since last Saturday and only left for Tokyo on Wednesday afternoon. However we were so “busy” shopping and “gourmeting” in Tokyo that it was hard to find time to post anything. Now that I can find time to tap on the free wifi…

Our initial drive was through snow,

Drive to Yamanakako3
Fortunately the road was cleared

Incredibly the roads are so well cleared every morning – not our car though and I had to practice scrapping ice off the windscreen (something I had not done for 12 years)… However, we were blessed with great weather coming through for the next few days. Mr Fuji was only covered up for a short time during the 5 days!

Lake Yamanakako6
Lake Yamanaka – luckily we had snow boots!

One thing about driving in Japan is that courtesy of the drivers. If you can negotiate the traffic in a major city, driving in Japan’s countryside will be a breeze. As usual, the caution is on black ice, and during this period when the temperature fluctuates between negative and just a few degrees above zero, the snow melts and refreeze even in the day.

More posts to follow.