Sunamushi Onsen

In Kagoshima (and maybe other places as well) they have Sunamushi Onsens. As you know, regular onsens are “hot springs”. Where you get naked and jump into a naturally hot bath with a bunch of old men. Or, if you’re lucky, you can get a private room and jump in with only your girlfriend. 貸し切り!

Sunamushi Onsen is similar, except, there is no water, you don’t get naked, it’s not especially fun if you get in with your girlfriend, and it’s not exactly “hot”, more like, toasty. Read the warning signs!

You change into a simple yukata and no underwear before getting out to the sand pit. Once you’re ready, the old ladies working at the location will dig you a shallow grave. Then you climb in, and they proceed to shovel sand all over your body, except your face.

At first the feeling of being buried by a buncha people with shovels freaked me out. But, I think that only happens to me. Once you are buried, you realize first, that sand is heavy. And two, that this sand is hot!

Kagoshima is famous for Sakurajima, a volcano… Basically right in the middle of the city. This volcano is still active, and just 10-15 years ago, the city was covered in ash most of the time because of it’s frequent spurts. Because of this, the area has many natural onsen, and also, this really hot sand.

It felt great!

– Harvey

Awaodori in Kanagawa

Awaodori is a type of Japanese dance which started in Shikoku, but I had a chance to see a big Awaodori festival in Kanagawa recently.

I have seen many types of traditional Japanese dance, but Awaodori was especially interesting. The dance involves men who bend their legs down to a type of half squat, and sometimes a long Japanese style lantern that they carry. The dancers seem as if they are drunk, or at least a little tipsy… Because they walk crossing their legs each step, with their feet pointed in awkward angles. The dance flows to a steady rhythm, but near the end of the dance the drums speed up, and the dance gets wild and faster. To add to the silly atmosphere, sometimes the men have colorful towels tied on their head, but the font of the towel is tied strangely under their nose! In one of the dances, the male dancer was twisting his mouth and scrunching his face making silly faces during the entire performance.

The female dancers are in geta for Awaodori, but during awaodori the dancer always walks on with the geta tilted forward. Not perfectly on their toes like a ballerina, but the wood supports on geta will allow them to be tipped, and the front of the geta will touch the ground. Next time you put on a geta tip forward and you’ll understand the concept. The dancers also are wearing a straw hat, but the hat looks as if it was a flat round straw mat, that has been folded down the middle and placed on the dancers head in an steep downward angle. Usually the hats are so tilted that you cannot even see the faces of the dancer. While dancing on the edges of their geta, the women have their hands straight up in the air, with their hands and fingers doing interesting movements to the music.

There was also one more dance in which 2 men pretended to be kites, and one man was pretending to be the man on the ground launching them and controlling them with strings. The kite actors had their arms straight out holding their coats out taut so they actually did look as if they might fly off anytime. They were spinning wildly, while the man on the ground fought with the “strings” to control them. One time when things went wrong the kites both crashed to the ground and the men were lying on the pavement.

There is famous saying for awaodori that translates roughly into “The people who are dancing are silly, the people who are watching are silly, if you’re the same silly person, there’s nothing to lose if you dance!”