Today, I turn a year older and it means totomai-in-his-birthday-suit tradition continues. Will it ever end? Of course, don't worry, I am already half-way through it.
This is the second time I am celebrating my birthday in Japan and for this year, I really want to have a Japanese-inspired photo shoot. Three years ago I had balloons all over my apartment. But in order to realize the idea I had in mind, I had to seek assistance from my friends to search for a place that has onsen, a private one that is. And since I can’t understand Japanese, I also asked the help of my Japanese officemates to book the place for me. As soon as an available date was confirmed, I packed my things and went to Awa-Kamogawa for an overnight stay at Takatsuru. It was a 2.5 hr travel by train from Chiba.
And why onsen as this year’s birthday concept? Aside from it's Japanese way of naked communication with nature, it is also my desire to remove all health related issues as well as negativities for the coming year. (And to be patient with cameras in timer-mode)
An onsen (温泉) is a term for hot springs in the Japanese language, though the term is often used to describe the bathing facilities and inns around the hot springs. As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsen scattered along its length and breadth. Onsen were traditionally used as public bathing places and today play a central role in directing Japanese domestic tourism.
Onsen water is believed to have healing powers derived from its mineral content. A particular onsen may feature several different baths, each with water with a different mineral composition. more here
I often hear that your Japanese experience won’t be considered complete if you haven’t soaked naked in one of Japanese hot springs. I can still remember the very first time I went to onsen, I didn’t remove my underwear but my friend told me that I have to while handing me a small towel saying that’s enough to cover my face. Ha ha! After a quick shower, I went immediately to the tub without realizing it was that hot, around 40 deg C. I jumped out of the tub as fast as I can. The secret, my friend said, was to dip slowly and feel the temperature of the water. It was one of the most relaxing experience I had. I almost fell asleep while being lulled to sleep by the bubbles.
I wished for a snowy background for this shoot to make it more poetic but to no avail. But I have no qualm on the place I stayed in. I had a great Japanese experience, room, food, even the caretaker talked to me in Japanese. Besides, finding a private onsen with snow will take longer travel time and of course much money out of my pocket. Being in an onsen, private or public, is being in a venue for a much needed stress release that you longed for and being in that hot pool for at least thirty minutes could give you a refreshed and eased body and mindset.
That is what exactly I was looking forward next year, a much refreshed, never-tired, stress-free totomai.