Weekend

I have returned from my Christmas weekend trip in Nagoya safe and sound – and very pampered and, it seems, a few kilos heavier…

As I was seeing Japanese friends, and all of Asia has this obsession with food, we were eating a lot this weekend, both home cooked Japanese (fish and veggies and soup and rice with ginkgo nuts…) and Italian snacks in a small restaurant that is open only on weekend nights and serves as a wine shop during the weekdays. I was totally surprised that this tiny little shop not even in the middle of Nagoya had a selection of Austrian wines! Not many people abroad know that Austria is a wine-producing country to begin with, and as our grapes are rather special and mostly grown only in Austria, it does not help with the people knowing about them. I was surprised enough to buy two bottles, one of which I have already shared with my friends that night, but the other awaits another nice evening…

Besides that, we also went to a special Japanese spa taking a rice bran … umm … bath? There were big tubs with heated rice bran where you lay down and are covered with it from head to toe. You stay there for 15 minutes while your body heats up and – allegedly – absorbs the nutrients of the bran through the skin. It was an interesting experience, and a bit scary at the beginning, as the material is rather heavy and you are buried at least 10 cm deep in it. However, when you can relax, it is very enjoyable – and very hot. I was happy that about half way through the treatment somebody came to put a cool washcloth on my forehead.

Afterwards you have shower – in your private changing room – to wash off all the bran that sticks to your body, and which looks and feels like dark brown sand. Everything is provided, of course, but when I was finished, I encountered a small problem: I was in the shower all wet and clean now, but I had come from the bran tub with bare feet, my body all covered with the brown dust. Clearly all the floor outside would still be covered with it, and I prepared to take an awkward jump trying to avoid getting my feet dirty again. So, when I opened the shower door, I carefully checked the floor and – instead of the leftover bran, I saw a nice fluffy bath mat. Somebody had come while I cleaned myself to do the same to the floor and put the mat down. Well, that’s Japan, everything perfectly thought out to the last detail.

Before I went home yesterday afternoon I went to the large bookstore on the 11th floor of the Takashimaya at Nagoya station, which has a surprisingly large selection of English books (large compared to the selection in any one of Kyoto’s bookstores, not quite as large as the one in Kinokunya in Shinjuku where there is a whole floor for English books… Okay, I’ll stop dreaming) and I bought a few books there. I did not stay as long as I had wanted because it was very busy as usual on Sunday afternoons anywhere in Japan, and I don’t like to have that many people shuffling around me.

That was my weekend, nice and relaxing, and I enjoyed it very much indeed. Next time, however, my friends have promised to come and visit me in Kyoto…

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