It’s 4AM. We lay on the futon on the tatami floor of our Japanese-style hotel.
We’re awake and know that we’ll surely be tired later in the day if we get up now. . . but can’t go to sleep.
We make our way to the hot spring area in our Yukatas (Japanese casual robes). Our hotel is built into the mountain on one side of the valley and the hot springs are situated on the other side below. We crossed the bridge over the running creek that cuts through the valley. We can’t see over the mountains. There are dim lights along the pathway. The hot springs are carved out like cul-de-sacs along the side of the mountains. Its chilly, about 55 deg. F and the humidity makes it feel like a damp cool mist on your skin. We move quickly, but not too fast as to avoid slipping on the unpaved pathway and smooth rocks. We can see the steam/mist above the hot spring as you approach.
No one is there, but us.
We disrobe, leave our Yukatas to the side, and walk in. (It’s customary in Japan not to go in with clothing, this is not some x-rated writing). The water is hot, yet the perfect temperature after the brisk chilly walk. There are smooth rocks you can sit on in the hot spring so that the water goes up to your neck.
It’s November and the season’s turn is visible. The trees along the valley are orange and yellow in the daylight.
We talk about our life, how dinner was the night before, how nice it was to have the whole pool to ourselves, plans for the rest of the day . . . .
From the top tiered pool, there is a bamboo pole that extends out about 10 feet above. It trickles a small stream of cool water to the lower pool. We make our wishes as the water falls over our heads.
After an hour or so, there is a hint of light starting over the valley. Other hotel guests are starting to feel the effects of jet lag too, so we make our way back to our room.
I don’t consider myself overly imaginative sometimes, but what I love about travel is that you can reminisce about moments in time that can seem surreal in hindsight. Of course special moments can happen at any time and anywhere. . .but getting yourself on a plane, traveling to a valley far from the city, into the mountains, and wandering around pools of hot springs in the night is sure to elicit some feeling. These are the moments that you can think about that make you smile and be happy to have experienced.
I can picture myself in the hot spring before dawn, making a wish under the trickling water fall in the center of the pool, and sharing that with my best friend.
DATE: November 2013