Matsuyama Onsen: Bring me back to Spa World

Matsuyama Travel Blog

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Random Observation/Comment #66: The larger selection and waterfall massages at Spa World clouded the fact that everything was artificial. Can you feel the difference? Nothing matters when I put that cloth over my eyes and breathe the hot steam clearly through my nose. I could feel every section of my lungs filling with the essentials of life. Dai ski dai yo.
The onsen we went to was the most famous one in Matsuyama (the name escapes me at the moment). It’s so famous that it has its own town of souvenirs and traditional sweets surrounding the highly praised pool of water. They are very proud that the emperor visited this onsen 4 times. You could tell because they offer a tour as a historical overview of where the emperor took his royal dump, and where his holy-ness soaked his nude body (which would apparently blind all who looked at him – no, just kidding I made that up).

I found this tourist attraction onsen overpriced with large groups. Normally you would fit 3 people into a private room (which costs the most money), but since we were a bunch of gai-jin tourists, we fit eight and sat together in a squished circle. The water itself was fine, but I wound up spending more time taking a shower than actually staying in the steaming bath. I found it amusing that when Sebastian and I entered the bath, the Japanese people scattered. It reminded me of that high school science trick where you put detergent on your fingertip and stick it into the middle of a bowl of water sprinkled with pepper. Try it and you’ll know what I mean.
For many of the people on the tour, this was their first time at an onsen. Their reactions were positive, but every single one of them was blushing like peaches.
Most of them only stayed in the hot baths for 10 minutes and spend the rest of the time sitting on the cool tatami mats and resting their eyes. We’re all on vacation here so there’s no need to force yourself into any uncomfortable customs. Although, I think everyone should keep an open-mind to what other cultures deem a cleansing of the spirit.
Not to mention that, if you don’t try this once, you won’t be able to experience trying to sit in such a way that everyone doesn’t get too quickly acquainted with you before you buy them a drink. Luckily, or unluckily (depending to who you talk to), the robes were not see-through.
All in all, it was a beautiful night and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Dinner was a poor excuse for Italian style, but it’s pretty difficult to mess up an omelet filled with rice and drenched with gravy.
The spaghetti , on the other hand, tasted like it was cooked (processed) by the famous Chef Boyardee. There must have been some weird canned tomato paste they added for the tomato sauce. Yum.
Money on this vacation was just spent on all sorts of experiences. I’m on vacation – I can spend a little extra on a few pints of beers. And, oh boy, did I choose the right tour guide to fulfill this wish. Yuka is amazing for giving me such effortless victories in convincing her to go out for a drink. In fact, it was more like “Can we order some beer tonight?” “Can we? Why wouldn’t we? Kanpai!”
~See Lemons Feel like royalty

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Random Observation/Comment #65: The view of the city and the trees is incredible from the top of a castle. I tried to imagine how this place looked hundreds of years ago without industrialization. Was it a vast plain of trees from one mountain to the next? Was this terra-formed land once a jungle of creatures? Can I just replace the concrete with wooden huts and farmland? I can’t even imagine the inspiration from such a sight. I would have been a better writer 1000 years ago.
We left Iya valley and traveled to stay in Matsuyama for a night. The agenda was simple: look at the castle and go to an onsen. It didn’t sound like much of an impressive plan since I had done both activities two or three times in Osaka and Kobe.
Regardless, I kept my senses heightened, waiting to be impressed.
It didn’t take long to find something surprising and interesting about this city. Looking above the crowded streets with the large tram rail running through it, I saw a thick lush of green on the mountainside followed by a white-ish, gray structure establishing its control over the land. Staring at the castle in the distance made me feel protected by the ominous and all-powerful emperors. Although some may have seen the rule by these deities living amongst the heavens a corrupt and unjust choice of government, at that moment, my mind explored the possibility of safety and security. I must admit that it was a strange and unexpected feeling, but I admired its symbolism. I became that ignorant farmer for just one second and smiled at the gifts sent from heaven.

These mix of emotions shifted when I started walking up the mountain to the castle. We rode the chairlift for 10 minutes up to the top to save some hiking for the day. It’s worth the extra money (trust me; I’m a frugal traveler) because the most gorgeous view is at the top anyway. The chairlift experience is also quite interesting and unique. I imagined it would be similar to skiing because they also had something that looked like a gondola, but instead, it’s a single chair that doesn’t take you more than 10 feet off the ground and higher than a 30 degree angle (handy dandy travel protractor?). The view below you is a nice fence net (for those clumsy enough to fall off the chair). So maybe the scenery for the short ride isn’t as spectacular with the high vegetation covering the sights left and right, but you’ll be able to take your pictures once you reach the top.

The main castle area was much larger than the one in Osaka. It had layers of protection for all of the important officials that lived within the walls. Each of the winds had their own separate towers that overlooked the cliff. Small windows opened upward as flaps and were held open with wooden sticks as a wedge. I felt a surge of adrenaline looking out one of the main towers used for scouting.
My clothes changed in the blink of an eye and the loud tourist laughs were replaced with peaceful sounds of the blowing winds. The samurai suit was bulky and heavy, but I looked really badass with that helmet on.
There were fields of soldiers in perfect formation. The oversized flags gave me pride to be serving the emperor. This was different from the normal practice drill.
In the horizon was an approaching sandstorm of steel and flesh. What were they fighting for? They must have had a very convincing flag, too. I spoke Japanese without thought, and played this game of Risk.
The battle before me was epic. The volley of arrows that would have darkened the sky for the enemy soldiers looked much more elegant from my perspective. It moved as a single wave which devoured the moving walls.
At one moment, I was staring into the distance dumbfounded, but in the next I was holding a katana covered with blood and internal fluids. My body moved on its own accord and swiftly parried and counter-attacked. I felt the sharp blade puncture every organ as I stabbed countless strangers with intent to kill me. Should I feel guilty? I wouldn’t be able to feel guilty if I didn’t defend myself.

Adrenaline coursed through my veins, which kept every slice swift and effortless for hours. But, I knew my body was physically exhausted. Practice would last an hour, but I did not have to continue fighting with open gashes infected with sand and cloth. I blocked out the pain when every rehearsed move made my wounds deeper. There would be no timeout, penalty, roughing, high-sticking, cross-checking, red card, white towel, or whistle blow – the fighting would continue. And in the end, my eyes would be tainted with death and suffering.
I stood there in the tower silent and imagining all of the details. My imagination seemed to be heightened by actually standing in the castle, as if ghosts of the past were showing me their story. Whatever that experience was; it kicked the shyt out of Hollywood.
~See Lemons Day Dream

photo by: ulis