Mayumi, Kate, Lena and Erica. She wouldn't sit on the chair after a while, she wanted to try skating too.
She actually wasn't too bad at it!
Then after it was all over and we were having a snack, the girls entertained us with some ballet moves.
It's late in the season and getting warmer, so the ice turns to slush but they still only resurface it once. And it's crowded as the hordes from Nakatsu come to redeem their free tickets.
Amy said that today, for the first time, she just got on the ice and went, with no trepidation. Greater confidence means harder falls though, so she went down hard when she lost her footing going over some slush. I saw/heard her thwack against the ice. She was fine, but it jarred her head and she had to take a rest.
Lena was still a little unsteady. Unlike earlier in the season when the ice was hard and dry, the slush and puddles meant they got very wet with each fall. She ended up soaking.
Erica went through three distinct stages. She napped in the car, woke moody and spent the first half hour fussing, and refusing to stand up, just flopping in my arms to be pulled and pushed along the ice. I got her a chair after that, and she happily sat there getting pushed around. After a snack break she skated again, and by the end I was holding her by only one hand, and she was LOVING the feeling of slipping and sliding around.
I was only going to go to the small onsen hot spring nearby, but it was closed for repairs, so we went into the Yabakei Valley again. Last time we tried the rose petal bath (Bara Onsen at Shiitake mura) but there were no petals, so we went to the maple bath (Momiji onsen) instead. It was lovely there, with a view of the valley and mountains, and someone's house!
We didn't want to go to the same one again so we checked out the pictures that were on a billboard map of the area, and chose Wakayama:
We stopped at what looked like just a shop by the roadside. A very ancient lady took our money and we bought towels off her, then we were directed out a side door. I went first to the nice double lattice doors, but no, it was the aluminium doors in the concrete wall further back. From the genkan we could see a new blond wood staircase and I could see the curtains down another corridor to the side. Two old ladies were sitting on the stairs, we told them we were looking for the onsen.
They came along too, and we all changed together in the smallest changing room I think I've even been in, and entered the bathroom:
Obviously by this stage we were wondering where the wonderful bath with the magnificent views had gone! The old ladies were muttering about the bath being too hot for the children, but Erica beat them at that game by plunging right in, grinning ear to ear. She LOVES onsens! We peered out the window, and saw a shed, and the river. There were no doors leading from the bath to outside, as you can see from the picture. Finally we asked the old ladies who told us we had to go outside and walk around to it.
After negotiating a tantrum from a little girl who did NOT want to get out of the bath yet, we all put on one layer of clothes, bundled up the rest and ventured outside to find the outside bath. We followed a concrete path around the back of the building, Amy and Lena skipping ahead.
As I rounded the corner I saw Amy stopped on the path, a man beside her, Amy telling me in English that we'd got it wrong, it was the men's bath, but me realizing No, there was only one bath - it was a mixed bathing pool. This used to be the norm in Japan, based on the very sensible notion that with all those people in the bath, you couldn't exactly get up to any hanky-panky.
It's not so common now, most places build two outdoor pools. The man had told Amy they were getting out, and reassured me that it was a lovely bath! I glanced over and could see the top half of a man in the chaning shed. I saw him put on a t-shirt, and figured that since we'd have the bath to ourselves we might as well give it a try. Here's the view from the path, you can see why I could look right in and see the guy getting dressed! Men's changing room is to the rear on the left, right where you can see through the window to the trees beyond. The bath itself is to the right front, just behind the trellis.
A closer look inside, with the men's (left) and ladies' (right) changing rooms. Finally we found the beautiful view! The water was not piping hot, just warm enough to stay in for a long time. As we were still getting our gear off another couple arrived, and man and woman in their 50's or so. I waited until the man had gone in to change, then slipped out and into the pool, and pretty much stayed leaning over the edge. They were chatty, Erica often breaks the ice with people by bowling straight up to them, grinning from ear to ear and nattering on at them about this or that. Soon enough we were answering all the usual questions, how long had I been in Japan, do the kids speak both languagea, blah blah blah...all very normalizing, considering we were all starkers!