Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Japan Diaries, part IX: Shirahama

That night we moved the table to the corner of the room, pulled the futons out of the closet and slept under the ink drawing and tiny pay tv in the alcove. Next day: beach day! Shirahama is on the coast of the Pacific (HI HAPPY!) but in the shelter of the curve of the land. Besides, the beach is in a bay. Result: relatively warm water. The sand on the beach is bright white (1) and the scenery is stunning. The best thing was that we were there outside the season. Apparently during the holiday season Shirahama is packed with (Japanese) tourists, you can hardly reach the water for people, and loud music is blaring over the beach. Not so in late May, early June. It was quiet with only a few small groups of people scattered around the pristine beach. Maybe half the shops are closed but how many shops does one really need anyway? It was beautiful. We bought our breakfast from the surprisingly outgoing (for a Japanese) cookie baker across the street and spent the day marvelling.

Apart from lounging in the sand and easing in the water we wandered around for a look at the cliffs and a splash in the famous age-old onsen by the ocean front. As we approached the onsen stall we were quickly told that today entry was free. And so we put our valuables in a locker and headed for the curtained-off onsen. One side for women, one side for men. Which one? Peaking stealthily under the curtain we saw a pair of very hairy legs, hopefully a man’s. Luckily by then the proprietor had noticed our hesitation and, accompanied by some sniggers from his regulars, steered us toward the right section.
(Please note that this is not a picture of the public onsen we were in! This is just a funny guy advertising a hotel.)

A few moments later we found ourselves in a natural hot spring, surrounded by naked Japanese women of all ages, soaking in the warm water with the sun on our faces. The open ocean on the other side of the rocks. Our European bodies drew a bit of attention but the reception was very friendly and pleasant. Nakedness can do that, when there is nothing to hide. The most shy visitors were the younger girls. Skins all young and smooth, everything in shape but oh so insecure. Now my body doesn’t belong with the elderly women yet but by gods, at least that is over with! The older ladies were chatting as if over a cup of coffee.

In the evening we set out to find ourselves a simple meal and ended up in a restaurant on the edge of town. Specialty: lobster. So much for a simple meal. S tried to play safe (and failed), I decided to have the speciality. Just as S was explaining to me that she doesn’t like her food to be too recognizable, the cook came up to our table and pulled a live lobster out of a bucket. Pinchers and legs rattling against the plastic about 50 cm from where we were. I have to say we both jumped! Quickly nodding approvingly (Hai! Arigato!) to get rid of the cook and his unlucky friend, we both got the giggles. It was good lobster.

(1) It turns out that the original white sand of Shirahama washed away some time ago which is why new sand was imported from Australia. We were sitting on Australian sand in Japan.

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