Returning from a trip is never as fun as the start of the journey. The possibilty of a new adventure is past, the body is tired, the train ride home takes longer than the ride out, and the car one is riding in is invariably graced by the presence of screaming children. Where were they on the way out? All journeys must end, or course. This is a given, but even so my Izu adventure was over before I was ready for it to be.
Jim Dawson, friend and former choirmaster at Rikkyo University’s All Saints Chapel, invited me to visit him and his friend, the owner of a traditional Japanese inn called Isaribi on the Izu Penninsula. All of the rooms have their own private hot spring-fed baths made of cypress, and all look out to the ocean. Is it not the lap of luxury to check into an elegant tatami-floor room and head straight to your own private bathing heaven?
One bathes upon arrival (with a beer in hand, if possible), before bed, upon waking, and, if possible, once again before checking out. I managed three out of four, and scored No. 4 later after checking out. Breakfast at Isaribi is an elegant affair served in the room. No toast and jam here, but plenty of fresh seafood (lobster soup, sashimi, grilled fish, etc) and vegetables. I would surely live to be 342 years old if I ate the meal below daily.
Jim took me on a walk around the area after breakfast. We wound up on the coast, where there is a small bathing shack (a rotenburo, or outdoor bath) fronting on the ocean. A wizened woman takes 500 yen per bather and 100 yen per towel at the entrace (see the photo I took with her after the bath). One strips naked, leaving clothing on simple shelves, and then hops into the steaming hot stone tub while the hot sun bears down on all exposed skin. Cooling off requires standing naked while facing the ocean as a meagre breezes tries to dry running sweat. Post-bath lolling about on the hot stone breakwater increased the sweat flow to the point that a downpour wouldn’t have gotten me any wetter than I was. It was wonderful!
A visit to the elgant local Shinto Shrine completed the morning’s activities. Izu Okawa’s Shinto Shrine had some very skilled detail work (see photos).
I am an adult, or so they tell me. Yet going home after this short adventure felt like leaving grandma’s house for home when I was a kid. Home is best, of course, but new discoveries, drinking with friends, and travel are all things to be treasured. I am grateful to Jim and Yo for this experience. Thanks, guys!