Onsen, Castle, and temples, oh my!

Trip Start Dec 25, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Onsen, Castle, and temples, oh my!

Matsuyama. A vibrant university city on the large island of Shikoku, Matsuyama is known to be a hot spot for Japanese tourists. It boasts one of the oldest onsens in Japan. A Majestic castle and beautiful shrines.
As we run for the sleek looking ferry and hold up the other passengers. We figure out that this is not the right boat. A ha! There comes our decrepit old ferry now. As we board the boat and jockey for a place to sit, Hessen ends up in the tatami mat room and I find myself outside on this chilly day. The boat cruises out of port with flocks of small sea birds in tow. A man starts to throw bread into the air and the birds go into fighter mode. They perform the greatest of acrobatic manoeuvres to catch the small piece of bread. But wait, an enemy approaches. Large hawks now join the scene. More interested in the small sea birds then the bread. The air battle begins with bread being lost into the sea, but no casualties. The smaller sea birds are to fast and agile for the larger more powerful hawks. The ferry ride takes 2 hours. Most people sleep as most Japanese do while taking any form of transportation. I sneak a seat inside to watch Canada leading in the men's GS skiing competition in Sweden. Nice!
We arrive and get our bearings missing the first bus and running for the second as an overpriced meal ran late. We hop on the bus that takes us a whole 5min. down the road to the train station. What! Anyway we take the train into the city and decide to walk around as we are too early for check in at our hostel. It's a Saturday, let the shopping begin. A favourite pastime anywhere in Japan and anywhere else in the world for that matter.
We are to meet another Japanese English teacher from our home city to check out one of the oldest onsens in Japan. As the story goes. Back in the day a young lord or samurai came across a heron that was tending to a broken leg in the waters of a spring. Later on he accounts to see the same bird again fully healed. Thus the spring became a very sacred place for warriors and people to visit to cure wounds or ailments of many kinds. Today the spring is still there under a statue of the heron. Were you can soak your feet in the warm soothing waters and wish what ails you away.
Near by is the Dogo onsen or bath house. This is what you would expect from a traditional old school style bath house. Men running around in there kimonos with there little basket of soaps and cleaning products. People from all over Japan come here to bath. Inside is a very traditional and quant setting. The usual sit down shower stalls surrounding a smaller bath being fed by the mouth of a Buddha perched on a large bell. A tiled picture of the crane fills the back wall. The water is very hot and cool droplets of precipitation fall from the high ceilings. You definitely feel like you've stepped back in time as you soak in the healing waters of the Dogo onsen.
Late night Indian food and a few pints at a bar last open night to make way for condos. Winter X-games sled jumping plays on the giant t screen as an older guy from Toronto pipes up. What the hell are they doing? What kind of sport is this? This Toronto male had a foul month and overall attitude. Maybe not foul, just too loud and a little off the wall and a few beers ahead of us. He's been teaching English in Japan for 13 years. This is why our friend and other English teacher, Brandon is pulling out of Japan after 3 years. He does not want to turn into the quirky man from Toronto that lives in Japan. Some things all over the world you can't get away from.
The next day brings pleasant walks and conversations through the streets, parks, temples, and castle of Matsuyama. What a wonderful day to stroll chat with other foreigners and local bicycle store owner. The Cherry blossoms have started to show themselves and light up the background. The ferry ride home with its intense sunset over the islands of Japan also facilitate an intense game of Texas holdem poker between a group of foreigners. For better or worse some things no matter where you are in the world don't change.
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whereshegoes on

Your writing flows and I feel like I am there with you. Thank you so much for letting us share your journey!

Here at home, the snow is melting. I leave in a few days for Miami then the Caribbean. Yay!

Love and Light

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