asia,  japan,  travel

Soaking away in bubbling bliss – Day 6


I awoke with somewhat of a plan for my last day in Tokyo. Upon conferring with D, I decided that I’d invest in one of the Hiroshige woodblock prints I’d spied the previous day. As each one is handmade, they can get pricey depending on where you get it from. The website provided by the National Museum listed their prints at around $130, which is odd considering they were about $100 at the museum shop (normally one would expect a mark-up at something like a museum gift shop). I had seen them at a shop in Asakusa, so I decided to pop over to see what their prices were like. Theirs ran at $130 as well, though they did also have smaller 4 x 6-sized prints as well, which I thought might be nice to flank a larger print. D had pointed out several prints he liked, so I thought I’d go with a sort of seasonal theme. I picked up two small prints, one “rainy” and one “springy“, before hopping back on the train and heading back to Ueno. From there, I made the infinitely more pleasant walk through Ueno Park back to the National Museum gift shop and picked up the larger print, a beautiful “snowy” scene, which will all (hopefully) look great in our bedroom. I just love getting art from the places I’ve been to, and I’ve always been so enamoured with woodblock prints. I made a quick pit stop at the hotel to drop off my spoils before heading out again.

The sun was just peeking out as I headed into the station bound for the National Art Center. I chanced upon an add advertising a new exhibition opening today on Van Gogh, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I don’t foresee my going to Amsterdam in the next little while, so this would certainly tide me over until then. Bit of a pricier fee then the other museums I’d been to at $12, but I was soon making my way through this soaring building of metal and glass and bizarre floating concrete cones. The exhibit, entitled “Van Gogh: The Adventure of Becoming an Artist“, essentially traced his development as an artist, with paintings and drawings from his influences (Monet, Pisarro, etc.) in honour of the 120th anniversary of his death. His paintings were, not surprisingly, beautiful…and interestingly varied in terms of style. You really got a sense of how his art developed and changed over time. He mimicked/copied other artists quite often, particularly early on, so it was neat to see his work side by side with his inspiration.

I was soon out of the exhibition and wandering through the impressive main lobby. I had planned to try and wait until the evening to attend the onsen, but my back was seriously complaining, so I opted to head over right away. I was off to Odaiba again, funnily enough, to check-out the Oedo Onsen Monogatari. An onsen is essentially “hot springs”, and this particular facility was supposed to be some sort of hot springs theme park extravaganza.

Upon entering, I was somewhat confused as to the shoe situation. I recognized I needed to take them off; I just wasn’t clear as to when. After fumbling about somewhat awkwardly, I was directed to a series of shoe-sized lockers to lock them up before padding over bare-foot to the reception. Thankfully, for whatever reason, there was a 1000 Yen discount today so I only needed to pay about $20. They gave me a little English pamphlet with step-by-step procedures and diagrams on onsen etiquette. I selected my yukata (robe) pattern of choice and headed to the change rooms. I had been given a bar-coded bracelet with a key for a locker, so I quickly changed into my yukata and left all my belongings there.

The main area was fashioned after period Edo, lined with food stalls and souvenir shops. I, however, bee-lined for the baths. There, I was handed a towel set (1 large, 1 smaller) and disrobed, taking only my smaller “modesty towel” in with me. The onsen facilities were quite extensive, with a variety of different bath types and temperatures, some with jets and others outdoors. I sampled all the different baths, particularly enjoying the outdoor ones—the cool air kept me from overheating in the hot water (most water temperatures averaged about 41 degrees). After bubbling away for awhile, I re-robed and grabbed some fabulously cooling ice cream. I was interested in checking out the foot bath. These were essentially foot-deep pools with strategically arranged smooth stones you walk over, meant to stimulate your feet and relieve fatigue. Most did; some, though, were just plain painful!

Feet stimulated, I noticed a little building where people were seated with their feet in a pool. Intrigued, I took a peek. Turns out, the pool was full of what they termed “Doctor Fish”, actually Garra rufa, that feast on dead skin cells. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so I paid the extra surcharge and headed in. I immersed my feet in the water and within seconds my feet were being swarmed with little fish. Perhaps pointing to a need for more frequent pedicures, but there was a veritable feeding frenzy. My feet were completely covered in fish! It was a bizarre sensation, at first almost uncomfortably ticklish vibrations, buzzing around my feet. After I got use to it, I watched my little eaters fondly, silently urging them to get every last bite they could. Once my 15 minutes were up, I felt my feet, adn they were in fact incredibly smooth! I marvelled at those little guys’ effectiveness. After returning to the baths for another hour or so, I decided to head out.

Feeling gloriously warm and unwound, I hopped on the train bound for Ginza. I suppose it was a fitting conclusion to my time in Tokyo, as Ginza had been one of the first places I went to during my last visit a few years ago. Ginza, to me, epitomizes my classic vision of Tokyo—tall, gleaming buildings, shining metal and glass reflecting the colourful glare of neon signs. It’s also home to all the high-end department and clothing stores—a smorgasbord of sumptuous retail delights. I ardently searched for a restaurant (of which there were many, but none with menus I could understand), finally settling on a little place aptly named “Casual Tempura Restaurant”. It had a sort of ‘80s diner feel with its vinyl bench seats. The food was fine enough, some of it perhaps a touch soggy for my taste, but it filled me up. I considered getting dessert at the Haagen Das restaurant across the street, but it was just too pricey, so I settled for a couple of Belgian waffles to go.

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