Road to Ikaho

Herro. It is officially November. Well, its well into November and its getting close to December but you get the idea. There have been a few fun adventures as of late and I look forward to telling you all about them. Lets begin.

First up: The annual teacher's retreat/vacation. I was invited yet again to head off on a tour bus with my colleagues from the junior high school for a weekend of frivolity, tourism and beer. I can't imagine a world where I would have issue with these three things.

The morning before we had our annual choir festival. The kids all sang wonderfully and class 3-3 ended up winning the top prize so they were able to represent their school in the junior high city competition. Not sure how they did but either way all the classes sang wonderfully. Around 6:30pm we hopped on our private jumbo bus and made our way off to Ikaho, Gunma prefecture. As is typical of any Japanese adventure on a bus, there were chocolates, potato chips, sake, beer and of course dried squid. I will never under any circumstances understand the Japanese love for dried squid while traveling. Since I was already feeling very car sick the smell of dried and somewhat rotted squid was how can I say…disruptive. Luckily my colleagues encouraged me to get over my car sickness with a healthy (unhealthy) amount of beer and sake. Surprisingly it worked.

We arrived at our destination roughly 2 hours later. After departing our private bus we then took the next step in our great journey: we got on another bus. Which only drove for 1 minute. Up a hill.

Our location was incredibly luxurious and after depositing our belongings into our respective rooms I had this thought: Man, now that we're here, the only thing that would make this trip even better would be to get naked with a whole bunch of dudes. Well, as luck would have it, it was hot spring time! Since this was my 3rd or 4th visit to a hot spring I was already used to the concept of stripping down with my cohorts. The first time I did it I was absolutely terrified at the idea but what can you do.

After that we enjoyed an incredibly luxurious traditional Japanese meal in a very spacious old fashioned tatami room that probably could have sat about 40 people. There were only 12 of us. The food was exquisite, the company was excellent and of course there was more beer. We ended up socializing the night away until the late hours.

Predictably, 10 out of 12 of us had some very severe headaches the next day when we got up at 7:30. I'll never understand the Japanese dislike for, well, you know, sleeping in. Personally I think there is no better way to spend one's vacation time. After our traditional breakfast we hopped on our hotel bus, to head to the parking lot one minute away, to get on yet another bus. After about an hour we made our way up into the mountains to Haruna Shrine. Apparently its a very famous shrine and known as a "Power Spot" which is supposed to energize one's body and spirit. I must admit to having felt a bit energized after the visit. When the carsickness went away anyway.

After that we visited a delicious Udon noodle restaurant and a fun shopping center for some souvenirs. There is officially no country more into souvenirs and gift buying then the Japanese. Its one of those parts of the culture that some of my Japanese friends admit to being very annoying at times. Don't forget presents for your accountant's cousin's nephew or it'll be rude! I realize thats a joke but its not that much of a stretch I assure you.

  We finally made our way home to Kuki City around 5pm and everyone went their separate ways. Since that Saturday was the choir festival, all the teachers at junior high had the next day off. Since I don't work at junior high on Mondays I predictably did not. Oh well. Was a fantastic adventure and I look forward to the next one.

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