The worldwide Augustana College experience

A Traditional Side of Japan: Shima Onsen

Today we traveled awhile in order to visit Shima Onsen in Gunma Prefecture. The trip has proved to be well worth it too. In case you are unfamiliar with onsen, it is a hot spring. It is similar to a hot bath with 100x better of a view and super clear, fresh water. Anyway, we traveled by train, and we arrived in the beautiful mountains. As is becoming a theme in this trip, I have never seen mountains in person before, so it was a lovely experience. They were so beautiful and green. For lunch, we went to a traditional style soba restaurant where I had soba and vegetable tempura. There were many kinds of salts to season the tempura too, which was fun to try out.
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At that onsen, I was really excited because we get to wear yukata, which is a traditional type of Japanese clothing for summer, and sleep in a traditional style room with a tatami mat and futon. It’s almost like a different world out here. Instead of the sounds of trains, there’s the sound of the flowing water always in the background. The atmosphere is so serene. This is especially true in the hot springs. It was my first time to go in. Some are very hot, so they make me feel like I’m boiling; however, once I found the ones with the perfect warm temperature, I was so relaxed. The water felt especially good in the cool of the night.
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As for the other parts of our evening, we got to eat a traditional Japanese meal. That was so cool. All of the different dishes had their own small plates and bowls which took over the table. There was sashimi, sake, mushrooms, rice, miso soup, and more. However, perhaps the most delicious and coolest part, in my opinion, was the little soup. There was a cup of broth with vegetables, mushrooms, and tofu in it, and a small fire was lit underneath. When it boils, we put in Udon and pork to cook it. Wow! It was fun to make, and it tasted amazing. The broth was incredibly flavorful. I enjoyed that a lot. We also had a great evening seeing some magic, a story-telling from the store owner, traditional dancing, a song from the owner, and taiko drums. All of the performances were absolutely outstanding, but I liked the taiko drums and dancing the best. This mini-trip to the onsen has provided some much needed rest, so on that note, I will go back to my futon for a traditional style rest…
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