Recently, at Hamamatsu Train Station, I realized after exiting the shinkansen (bullet train) that I had time to kill before a meeting. Over a week had passed since my last bath in a Japanese hot spring. My hands were shaking. I needed to sate my onsen addiction.
Could I locate a bath, travel there, bathe, return, check into my hotel, and get to an important meeting within three hours? In geologically active Japan, being further than one hour away from a hot spring is almost impossible. And Japanese information centers are amazingly helpful. The bilingual staff in the station information center showed me a chart with information on local hot springs, told me the train and bus schedules, and also expressed their preferences. We narrowed the list down. I boarded a local train that left a few minutes later.
After a twenty-minute ride on a two-car local train, I arrived at minuscule Bentenjima Station, exited, walked across the street, turned right, and entered The Ocean Hotel, which stands between the train station and a sandy beach.
I stepped into the tatami changing area and saw through wide windows a quintessential Japanese view: A horse-shoe shaped bay lay before a raised highway spanning the bay. Alone on a spit of land stood a traditional reddish-orange shrine gate, torii. Modern-day Japanese cars and trucks slid across the highway. The colorful shrine gate and bland modern concrete and steel bridge were juxtaposed before the sun-illuminated blue sea. I moved closer to the window, looked down, and saw young men twisting and somersaulting in the air after bouncing off an exercise ball they had partially buried in the sand. "Ah, Japanese creativity," I said to myself before enjoying what I consider to be Japan's premier cultural accomplishment—the onsen.
Settled into my clean warm bath with the bright sun warming and the gentle wind caressing my skin, I could watch the acrobatics, fishermen, sailboats, and light scintillating off the crests and troughs created by passing speedboats.
Did I get to my meeting on time? Of course! And my presentation was all the better because of the revitalizing power of the Japanese hot spring.