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 Will's Tour Diary - updated daily!

Will's tour diary
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Monday 2nd October
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Nozawa Onsen is not your typical Japanese village. The European architecture, the violently sloping streets, the ski shops, and most notably the German names on many of the the restaurants and hotels give the impression that someone took an alpine village from Austria and plonked it down in the north-western corner of Nagano prefecture.

There is one notable non-Germanic feature. There are 13 free onsens dotted around the village of Nozawa Onsen. From the outside they resemble public toilets - doors marked "Men" and "Women" - but inside, instead of sinks and porcelain there is a changing area and a huge, steaming, sunken bath. Considering the average onsen costs anywhere from 350-600 yen this was a boon to us. We were about to enter the first one we stumbled upon but an old guy told us to head to "Oyu" because it was the 'symbol of Nozawa'. There was no one else there. According to custom, we washed ourselves outside the bath first. The water overflowing from the bath and scalding my feet lead me to suspect the temperature was a tad high. Richard's yelp as he dipped his foot in confirmed this. We figured we were just weakling foreigners, but when a group of Japanese tourists appeared and tested the waters they leapt straight back out with cries of "Atsui!!!!!!". Not wanting to lose face we made a second assault, and managed to endure for a few minutes.

We said hi to Ortwin at the town office and made plans for the evening (Visit onsen, eat, drink). He recommended a soba restaurant for lunch, and entering it we discovered why - Ortwin had appeared on, and won several rounds of a talent show as part of a 5 man dancing group called Oyaji Gumi. There was a poster of the group in the restaurant - the owner's son was also a member.

We visited the local primary schools. Unlike the familiar, standard poured concrete construction the first school resembled an Alpine lodge. we hung out with the students and for the first time in 4 months I was kancho'ed - jabbed in the rear - by several of the more inquisitive students. As recompense we were treated to a truncated performance of a lion dance.

At the second school Ortwin was busy teaching a class about email. Richard and I spent more than an hour chatting with the English teacher (unfortunately the Principal was out), trying to convince him that Japanese children could in fact learn to speak English.

After work Ortwin joined us and we went to Kurhaus - a plush onsen where one would normally have to pay, but Ortwin had free tickets. As we relaxed in the soothing waters of the big bath Ortwin and I caught up - I hadn't seen him since February. Meanwhile Richard was being quizzed by the gentleman next to him on the finer points of picking up "foreign women" without one's wife finding out. For anyone who hasn't been to Japan the idea of getting naked with friends after work may sound well dodgy, but I highly recommend it.

We dined at an Italian restaurant where untold numbers of beers met their doom, and Richard and I revised our schoolboy German in anticipation of the arrival of Ortwin's girlfriend Suzy (Suzy teaches English in nearby Nakano). When Suzy arrived Ortwin, grinning widely, announced "Will speaks German", and I, slightly altering the phrase he had just taught me said "Ich habe eine grosse liverwurst".

We wound up in a bar. Richard, feeling shattered, went home early.

Later, back at Ortwin's palatial apartment there was a phone call from Austria - it was Suzy's friend Sonia. I was again asked to trot out my expansive German vocabulary, and feeling more confident I told her "Ich habe eine grosse bratwurst".




Will

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Opinions expressed in this diary are personal views of Will Jasprizza. They do  not necessarily represent those of Genki English, especially where he is slagging people off or making jokes which sounded better at the time!!! Please be understanding!

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