Sunday, January 22, 2006

Atami Onsen Day 2

Day 2
We woke up early for breakfast which was scheduled for 8am. We ate so much food the night before that I was expecting a small, light, traditional Japanese breakfast of miso soup and rice. We went to the same room and we were presented with another huge meal similar to the night before. It was delicious and decadent. After breakfast, we took a quick dip in the onsens.

That day, the Hondas had planned for us to take a ferry to a nearby island and to tour an old and traditional style Japanese house. All 8 of us took 2 taxis to the waterfront. We walked along the boardwalk and on the beach. Grandma walked on the beach in her kimono and traditional style flip/flop clogs (wish I had a picture). There were kites flying and grandma broke out into song again about kites flying higher and higher into the air.

Walking Along the Boardwalk

As we were walking towards the ferry along the boardwalk, there was a woman throwing food up in the air for these huge birds that looked like falcons, but are called "kites". There were at least 20 birds diving to catch the food and flying all around. Shay and I ran over towards the woman so we could get a closer look and we stood there for at least 20 minutes watching these amazing creatures fly at us and for the food. It was incredibly beautiful and surreal. I've never been so close to large birds and seen them from so many interesting and beautiful angles as they flew all around us. It was breathtaking!

We had to get to the ferry. On the way to the ferry, we saw this sign.

The Hondas bought us ferry tickets and snacks to feed the birds that follow the ferries back and forth all day. Mr. and Mrs. Honda and grandma decided not to go with us to the island, they went back to the hotel to relax and enjoy the onsens some more. Yukiko was our guide and she showed us how to feed the birds. It was a 30 minute boat ride to the island. At first we would throw the snacks at the seagulls and they would catch it in their beaks (little shrimp tasting things that look like cheese doodles but white), but then we saw a guy feeding them by holding the food in his fingers and the birds would fly up and grab the food from his fingers. So, we all started feeding the birds by holding the food in our fingers. It seemed a bit dangerous for the birds brave enough to fly to our fingers, because the wind was so strong and they could easily crash into the boat, but all the birds did well and it was a thrill to feed them. I felt like a little kid :-)

We were frozen after our boat ride, so we stopped into a small homey restaurant to eat and warm up. We sat cross-legged on tatami mats and laughed a lot and had a beautiful day. It was getting late in the day so, we caught the next ferry back to Atami. Yukiko bought us special sweet, hot, rice sake drinks to keep us warm on the boat. It tasted like warm, sweet, rice milk. On our way back, we saw Mt. Fugi from the ferry. We couldn't see Mt. Fuji from Atami. It was funny because Gwynne had commented earlier in the day that she wanted to see Mt. Fuji.

Yukiko brought us to a beautiful traditional Japanese house/museum. The house was famous because many well-known Japanese writers had stayed there. It was a 1920s style house and it had some 1920s American bungalow design features as well. I love traditional Japanese architecture, it gives me inspiration for what I would like to do with my house in America!

We returned to the hotel in time for our 6 o'clock dinner. Dinner was awesome again. We had the same amount of food, but an entirely new menu! We presented some gifts to the Hondas. Honda-san mentioned that she wanted us to feel like children and to enjoy and relax and have no worries as children. It was really special. We cried a lot during our visit together. I get really emotional every time I see the Hondas. They are just so wonderful!!

Here's the group

We played another round of bingo that night but our luck had turned for the worse. Grandma won one round-go grandma!

It was our last night, so we soaked in the onsens some more. Yukiko and I stayed up until 2am talking. I love talking to her and spending time with her. She's so amazing.

Day 3
Yukiko, Julian and I got up at 6am so we could watch the sunrise, but it was cloudy so we didn't see it. However, it was incredibly peaceful and beautiful. We had another amazing and huge meal for breakfast. Yukiko and I took one last dip in the hot springs.

It was time to go, so we all headed for the train station. We had a tearful good-bye. They are so great! We headed back to Himeji on the super fast train.

I've had a really difficult time writing about Atami. It was such a fantastic trip and I feel so honored and grateful to the Hondas. What I wrote does not do it justice. It was just so amazing! It was a once in a lifetime opportunity! I can't express the joy and emotion I feel towards the Hondas and I can't even begin to describe the beautiful weekend we had together. There's a word in Japanese that means from the heart, kimochi. That one word describes my entire weekend with my family.

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