I think its fair to say that the western attitude to bathing fully naked in public with strangers is different to that of Asian people who have grown up with such customs like onsen (hot springs) and sento (public bathhouses). Japanese people don’t seem to have any problems with seeing colleagues, friends and family (of the same sex) without their clothes on but the British stance on going au natural with other members of the same sex (in non-gay ways) isn’t quite the same. With that in mind I can’t say I was ever too keen to share a bath with my prospective father-in-law but having dodged one bullet in Amakusa I knew it was only a matter of time before it happened.
So having started the day in Amakusa we arrived in the beautifully landscaped Aso-san area late morning and on discovering that the restaurant my father-in-law wanted to visit had actually been closed for five years, we made alternative plans. A quick sauna and onsen was taken where we were the only ones present and all my pre-conecpetions about being naked alongside the man whose daughter I’m marrying were laid to rest. I really needn’t have worried about it at all.
We were all absolutely starving by the time we arrived at a local soba (noodles) restaurant in the middle of nowhere. With some wonderful views outside the window we sucked up the delicious noodles in no time and then moved on to our next destination.
Shirakawa Yoshimi-jinja is far more than a nice little shrine tucked away amid plenty of greenery for it possesses the Shirakawa-Suigen fountainhead (or is it the fountainhead which possesses the shrine?!) which is an amazing pond yielding an abundance of good, clear, quality water. It really is amazing that you can actually drink the water and they even sell empty bottles (which you can properly cap like a bottle bought in a shop) that you can fill with the water using the funnels which are provided.
My hot-spring bathing accomplice really wanted to take me and his daughter (a.k.a. my fiancée) to Tatta Aso Sannomiya jinja (more commonly known simply as Aso Shrine) which is the most noted Shinto shrine in Kumamoto prefecture.
It’s been a place of worship going back to the 600’s and many visitors come to appeal to the local deity for a number of things. Our main reason for visiting was that it has a pine tree that is believed to bestow good fortune in marriage. For this to truly work we had to walk around the tree twice as you can see some girls doing in the picture below.
After that we headed off to our lodgings for the night amid some spectacular scenery. I was keen to stop for photographs but knew that I would have to hold tight and wait for the following day when we’d get to see Mount Aso up close.