Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saki no Yu, Shirahama

The first time I came to Japan on a summer homestay, some friends of my host family took me on an overnight trip to Shirahama in Wakayama prefecture. That weekend is one of my most vivid memories of Japan. We went by car from Osaka. Shirahama is a popular beach and hot spring town and it's packed in the summer, but I was really charmed by the little white beach and all of the retro hotels, none built more recently than the 80s. We checked into an inn, where the bathtub faucet drew water from the surrounding hot springs. I don't love the smell of sulfur but this detail was so novel and cool. We had a big course lunch at the hotel and then walked along the beach. The next day we spend the morning and early afternoon at the beach, then headed back to Osaka by way of some really gorgeous wild mountain roads. We stopped at a place where there was a forest museum and a little shop selling charcoal products. I can't forget, though, that I thought I was gonna die on the drive home because the guy's driving was CRAZY and the wheels kept crossing the white line at the edge of these high mountain roads, ugh! Kansai drivers! I didn't really know the people I was with -- it was an older Japanese ceramics artist, his Japanese-American friend, her American husband, their American niece or something, and a little Japanese boy. We got along okay without really bonding. It's funny that I remember it as one of the best trips I ever went on and in the six years since I have been dying to get back down there one more time. And I just did!

sakino-yu, shirahama by hopemeng
sakino-yu, shirahama, a photo by hopemeng on Flickr.

This time I made it to Saki no Yu, an outdoor hot spring in Shirahama, one of the top 3 in Japan I guess. Look at it! It's amazing! A week ago I was in that far pool at the edge of the ocean, naked and simmered and splashed by the waves, yelling "POSEIDON!" It was excellent. I've wanted to go to this famous onsen for a long time and now I've been and it was awesome. Mid-April was the perfect time to go to Shirahama. No crowds at all, and it was just warm enough to kick back.

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