Jan 12, 2014

The Big Bonenkai

The big bonenkai (end-of-year-party) for my junior high school was held at the #1 ryokan (Japanese-style hotel) in the country: Kagaya in Wakura.

Top: entrance to the women's bath aka the doorway to heavenly bliss.
Middle: live music in the lobby as a kimono-clad woman plays the koto.
Bottom: view of Nanao Bay and Notojima from my hotel room's balcony.

The highlight of the bonenkai was the traditional dinner. This was my first time to eat crab, uni (sea anemone), and sea cucumber.

I enjoyed dining with my staff because after a few beers, teachers who are usually shy to try to speak to me start breaking out any English that they know. Each person also took turns to kneel in front of the other teachers since in Japan, it's polite to pour drinks for others.

The party games reminded me of a teenager sleepover. First, there were 3 cups of milk and you had to guess which one was from which carton. Second, there was a cup of yellow liquid and you had to guess the 7 different ingredients (which you can see in the bottom left-hand corner - gross!). Finally, we played bingo, and I won a nice little desk light.

This is the hotel room that I, two other teachers, and the Kyoto-sensei (vice-principal) shared. It was bigger than my apartment! The suite was so spacious there was even an entire room we didn't use. I loved the kotatsu because it had space cut into the floor for you to put your legs.

Dressed in my yukata and ready to hit the onsen (hot spring bath). My Kyoto-sensei wanted to go at the same time, so we went together. Only in Japan is it considered "normal" to bathe naked with your school's vice-principal (not that that stopped me from being self-conscious).

A Shinto and Buddhist shrine within the Kagaya complex. The bits of paper are fortunes that people tie to Shinto shrine poles to purify and "take the bad luck away."

The elevator door symbolizes the theme of Kagaya: snow moon flower. The live music bar, pond-lined walkway, and stage were all on the first floor. The hotel was like an entire city of its own.

Breakfast the next morning without any natto (fermented soy beans) in sight, hurrah!

The "heaven bird" flower, a visit from the emperor to Kagaya Onsen (a really, really big deal to everyone in the area), pirate Wakutama-kun, and handmade lacquer-ware for sale for hundreds of thousands of dollars (no joke).

The lobby windows looking out at the Bay, with paintings of heavenly gods dancing above them. Such decadence I think I could never get used to. I enjoyed Kagaya, and I'm glad it was only one night.


No comments:

Post a Comment