Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Girls weekend in KagaOnsen, Part 1

Me and Miyuki on the balcony of our room, obviously very excited!

View from our huge room at Nagayama Rokyan

Yoko, my Japanese teacher, is such a star! This weekend she organised a girly stayover at a ryokan (Japanese style hotel) called Nagayama (ながやま) for 13 of us ladies in KagaOnsen. She'd found a deal in the paper (which of course I can't read so I'd never know about it) for ¥6500 about ₤43 which included a night's stay, onsen (hot spring) to use as many time as you want, all you can eat buffet dinner (known as tabehoudai), after dinner show entertainment and a buffet breakfast the next morning. Bargain!

Any preconceptions I had about the Japanese being an enchanting and mysterious race (probably spawned from seeing countless exotic images of Geisha, their bowing culture and other fine etiquettes) were blown out of the water for me this weekend because, believe it or not....the Japanese are huge fans of Butlins type TACKINESS! They love it, in fact they revel in it. I thought it was only us Brits! This weekend was such an eye opener into what the average Japanese family do at weekends.

I have so much to write about I'll split it into several posts. So we met at Kanazawa station and took a train (about 30 mins) directly to KagaOnsen station. We then all piled on a little bus whose conductor was probably older than Grandad, bless.

Choosing our yukatas (I had to have "large" damn those Japanese for being so teeny!)

Got to the ryokan (which was huge) and spent a lot of time deciding on which yukata (summer style kimono) we wanted to wear. Once you have your yukata you can wear this everywhere, for dinner, in the bar etc like being at a health farm at home)

Some of our futon beds lined , very cosy!

Our room was huge and looked like a girls dormitory, only Japanese style of course (futon beds lined up on the floor)

Me and the ladies having Japanese tea in our room at Nagayama ryokan

Homemade rice crackers (sembei)

We then sat on floor cushions and polished off the complimentary green tea and mochi (pounded rice cake) in seconds. Once this was gone, the older ladies brought out more food, homemade rice crackers, oranges, chestnut cake and pastries. I don't know how the Japanese stay so thin!

We then all trooped off to the onsen (hot spring) on the 6th floor in our yukatas. Being the ONLY gaijin (foreigner) in the whole hotel I was actually thinking that eyes were going to be all on me in the onsen (you see you have to go naked in an onsen) especially with all my cellulite wobbling about with nothing for it to comfortably hide behind but was relieved when they didn't stare at all. Although who knows what they were doing behind my back!

Early dinner at 5pm in the "restaurant" which was more like a canteen packed with about 150 Japanese adults and kids running about everywhere. I so wish I'd filmed the ABSOLUTE frenzy of the Japanese around the buffet. I thought it was bad in India! Everyone pushing and shoving (esp around the sushi table), trays getting dropped on the floor and the kids hogging the chocolate fondue fountain. Crazy...

The buffet was amazing though, a huge salmon with head and tail cut open like we have in England, the only difference being that the Japanese were eating the salmon raw. I do actually love sashimi (raw fish without the rice) but actually picking pieces directly out of a whole fish did make my stomach turn a bit. The buffet also had miso soup, tempura vegetables with a dipping sauce, 3 kinds fo rice (plain, adzuke bean and chestnut), pickled fish, boiled tofu and soy, chawamushi (Japanese steamed egg custard), green sesame beans, sesame aubergine and countless varieties of sushi (squid, octopus, salmon, tuna etc). There was even a "western buffet counter" with (I hang my head with shame) chips and deep fried fish cutlets....
Anyway here are my first helpings, all washed down with a glass of nama! (draft beer)!

My first helpings from the buffet....

Dinner was followed by cake and ice . We then we all hit the hotel's own little theatre en masse. I'll write about that in another post.

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