Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 11 – What do you find most overrated and underrated about Japan?

I've always been one for hearing bad news before some good news, so let's talk about what's overrated about our beloved Japan before we move onto greener pastures, shall we~?

Technology. When I saw the word "overrated" I thought it was going to be difficult to think of what I wanted to pin point. In all honesty, it took about 5 seconds for that single word to pop in my head. For instance, if you are an American with zero knowledge of Japan, I feel like one of the first things that comes to mind when asked about the country will come from the following list:
  • Anime
  • (kinki) Porn
  • Ninjas
  • Robots
  • Sushi
  • Samurai
Robots of course meaning, Japan's "super advanced and completely unique" amount of technology (which occasionally includes robots). Cars, MP3 players, cell-phones, washing machines, point-and-shoot cameras, (robots) you name it! Japan has tons of electronic/appliance brands that are shipped around the world and are used by every persuasion of human being. Popular youtube and internet videos feature humanoid robots walking around and talking, or that cute little one that fell over when trying to get up some stairs last year. If you've seen any Japanese car commercials recently, ECO cars where you can "mantan" (fill-up) your tank at home are getting popular, as well as the recent car convention that featured cars you could control with a smartphone or change the color/image on the outside.

But the fact that it took me 6 weeks to get internet in my apartment, makes me shake my head at all of that flourish and fancyness (and robots). Yes. 6 WEEKS. And it's not even that great of internet either! It stops working when it rains. I think I've made my case.

An onsen in Kami-shi, only about 40 min from my place. It overlooks a gorgeous river.
Onsen. I think one of the most underrated things about Japan are onsen, or public baths. It seems very roman and a little unhygienic (the word "public" just doesn't ever bring clean images to my head), but is honestly one of the most amazing experiences that I don't think a lot of people go out of their way to take part in, or even know about.

If you've never visited an onsen, you might be thinking "Public bath?! I have to be naked in front of other people?! How awful!" Which is what most of my foreign friends living here have said to me if they have too many body issues. What girl doesn't have a few body issues? For me, all that is pushed to the side when it comes to onsen. How could you be worrying about the shape of your thighs when you are surrounded by old, saggy women (or men, if you aren't female) with bent backs and wet towels wrapped around their heads?

I love going to the onsen, spending 30 of more minutes massaging shampoo and conditioner into my hair/brushing my teeth, and then sitting in the outdoor hot baths with the cold winter wind blowing against my face. If you're a person afraid of the potential non-cleanliness of a public bath, I really wouldn't worry about it. Those places are being constantly cleaned by small old ladies (or robots), and the natural spring hot water replaces itself every hour or so. The water is also usually so hot (between 40-50+ degrees celsius) I can't imagine that many micro-beasties have a chance to live long in them. The other cool thing about onsen is the "specialty baths" offered at most. Some have special minerals flowing through them, some are super hot, some are super cold, some have crazy water jets ready to pummel your calves and lower back, some have stones lining the bottom you can walk on, and some have (kinda scary) electrical currents running through them (for health, is what I hear...).

If you got anything from this splattering of thoughts, I hope you got the idea that my cell phone is not a teleportation device (or robot), but a trip to the onsen is well worth your time (and 500 yen)!


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