After using the Internet at Mariko's (along with tea, coffee, miso soup, and grapes) and getting our cleaned laundry from her, we had lunch at a hotel, with a fancy mixed cuisine buffet and a growing friendship with Susan. Despite her exhaustion from her eight city tour, and disappointment that the agency she used did not advertise sufficiently, she was cheery, funny, and profound. Truly a great lady.
Tokiko gathered us up - Yayoi, Susan, Camilla, and I, and said that before going to the hot springs, she was going to take us shopping. First, the art store. It was a hole in the wall, stacked floor to ceiling with ink and paper, so crammed that Susan couldn't negotiate the passageways and I had to plan carefully. The proprietor was a tall, graying man who loves to talk about art supplies. We heard about the benefits of grinding your own paints, and the various cake watercolors and what their grain size is. We learned about whale glue and rabbit glue, about paper and about brushes. I wish I could speak Japanese!
Then, another used kimono shop. Since modernization, people just want to get rid of their kimonos, so we got a set of formal obis and informal ones, as well as another jacket for about ¥20,000, or $200. It was exhilerating shopping with Tokiko, who bends deeply over the wares iwth utter concentration, then pronounces judgement on it. Both Susan and Yayoi bought many things as well, even though they hadn't been planning to. "Hive mind," said Susan, and boy, was that true!
On to the Onsen! It's an ancient spa in the hills. We arrived at a lantern-hung block of buildings, and had yet another massive dinner, full of chatter, good feeling, and wisdom. The others waddled off to bed but Camilla and I tried the outdoor springs. They are a series of stone pools, with little signs saying 41 - 43 degrees (body temperature is 37 degrees C), up to a 45 degree pool and a mugwort sauna that was hot enough so that we put our towels over our mouths to protect our windpipes from burning. You can hang over the edge of the stone walls to see the little river wind around rocks below, with drifts of red and gold maple leaves lit up by floodlights. Camilla was supremely happy and I wasn't doing so bad either. We finally