The Healing Springs of Tsurunoyu Onsen And A Vow To Return




Oh…. Options… There are so many ways to enjoy the day…

All options seemed so appealing…
We could go for a hike in the surrounding Mountains….

Or we could rent bicycles for the day and cycle around Lake Tazawako…

Or we could just stay put, and enjoy this unique magical rustic Onsen, that is steeped in history and tradition…soak in the hot springs…. Take it all in before we leave and move on tomorrow….

I was wondering what feels right inside of me…. Since Jules did not indicate any strong desires either way…

I assessed my body and its health, and even though both Jules and I healed almost overnight from our runny noses, I was not sure that I was well enough for a long day of climbing and physical exertion.

We have ahead of us a lot of special hiking to do, and I did not want to risk getting sick again.

We plan to climb a mountain complex with three holy mountains with temples on them.

One is called the mountain of BIRTH
Then we will climb the Mountain of DEATH
And last we will climb the mountain of REBIRTH…

No… climbing today may NOT be a good idea.

We could rent bicycles and cycle around Lake Tazawako, which because of its depth, has an amazing blue color to it, and a huge golden statue standing majestically in the middle of it….but I think that I feel like staying right here in the Tsurunoyu Onsen…. To cherish and to enjoy each moment in this magical place….

So we put on our Yukatas (summer kimonos), did our morning meditation, and had a festive breakfast by the fire pit.

A friendly lady came over to me, and handed me three white Origami swans, that she had folded from a white paper.
“A gift for you…” she mumbled as she left.

My heart expanded a little bit at her friendliness…

We took our towels, a bit of pocket money to buy tea and ice cream, a book to read and our hats, and we went to the front desk to catch the bus shuttle to Tsurunoyu Hot Spring Onsen.

The friendly young man at the front desk, nervously pointed to the clock and said that the next shuttle bus will only be leaving in forty minutes.

A second later, he offered to give us a ride in his own private car, up the hill to the hot springs.

We got into his car, and thanked him a million times for his generous offer.
He drove fast, since he left the front desk unattended, in order to drive us.

This keeps on happening to us… People go out of their way to offer us help, or offer us gifts and are so kind to us…

The beautiful Tsurunoyu grounds had a few guests walking around in their Yukatas, with their towels wrapped around their hair or draped over their shoulders.

We found a place to sit by the river with comfortable chairs, and we walked around to explore all the hidden nooks of this place, with its many tucked away different hot pools.

We found a small black hot spring pool, that was empty of people and was located right on the edge of a cold running creek.
A lady down the hall, told me that this is a “secret pool” which not many people know about, and in it, men and women are allowed to soak naked together.

The Tsurunoyu Hot Springs has many bathing areas.
In all of them, it is not allowed to wear a bathing suit.

Some baths are communal, while other bathing areas are designated only for women or only for men.

We stripped off our kimonos and placed them in the nearby baskets.
The black sulfurous waters were very hot and we soaked leisurely in this lovely rocky black bath.

The creek was roaring right beside us, and it reminded me of the creek next to our home in Colorado.
We spoke about how awesome would it be if we had a hot springs source right on the Sweetwater Creek that runs through our land….

A neighbor from Colorado had just written an email to tell me that our creek is running low this year, because of the lack of rain in the State of Colorado this summer.

She also told me that the other day, as she drove by our house, she saw a bear in our driveway.
She said that she thinks that this year the bears will come down more often, looking for drinking water from the river and creeks, as well as for berries.

So this is how we spent the day at the Tasurunoyu Onsen.
We soaked in the different pools with different mineral composites….
We ate their homemade brown rice delicious ice cream….
We read our books and chatted about life… About dreams and about this and that….

At one point, I went to soak in the women-only open air bath.
Nobody else was around, and I floated naked and happy and free….

Around me were the mountains and trees, and flowers covered the very steep hill.

The sky was blue and the river was roaring….a butterfly landed on my stomach, before it took flight again….. I felt as if I were in paradise…

I never wanted to leave this place…
Or at least I wanted to leave a part of me here…. To always be able to rejuvenate, if life ever takes a sad turn…..

I wanted to always feel as wholesome and pure and happy as I was feeling here today….

A poetic idea came to my mind, and I presented it later to Jules.
I suggested that we visit this place again in all the four seasons.

We’ve seen it now during summertime…
Maybe we should come here again during Autumn, when the leaves are changing colors and this place will be glowing with amazing reds, oranges and yellows…

And we could come again during one winter, to soak in the bubbling hot springs when it is freezing outside…. When it is snowy and white all around… Maybe go skiing during the day, and eat by the camp fire at night…

Then we can come again during springtime, and see all the Sakura cherry trees blossom and all the wildflowers bloom,…
Wouldn’t it be awesome?

But instead of trying to cram all four seasons into one year, why not come once every four years?
It will take twelve more years to see and experience this place in all the four seasons…
Sounds like such a romantic and poetic idea….

Can we make such a long-term vow?… I wondered….

Since the 1200’s when a hunter saw the Crane that he had shot heal its wounds after entering the hot springs here, this place has been known as a special healing place.

This Onsen was built upon the principles of renewal and healing…

It was a place for the Samurai to come, to heal their emotional and physical wounds and to renew their Spirit….

Nowadays the public, or more accurately those who can afford to come here, make the journey here to renew and to rejuvenate their Spirits….

That night by the campfire, dinner was served and tasted like a symphony with sixteen movements…. That is 16 small and most delicious dishes were presented to us.

Some travelers like to take souvenirs from the places they love most…. To remind them of these places… take a part of the place home with them…

I never want to leave this place…. I want to leave a part of me here, to always enjoy the wind and the beautiful nature… The wonderful hot springs and the wholesome mountain food…

I had to remind myself that my life and where I live is not much different from this place….

For me, home is not a big busy city with cars and noise.
My homes are actually located in two beautiful parts of the Earth that are as wholesome and beautiful as this place is… I have more conveniences, and art studios that are patiently waiting for me…

But these thoughts felt like I was trying to cheer myself up…
Trying to convince myself that it is OK to leave this place in which for some bizarre reason, I want to stay…

I did not understand why I was feeling this way…. It baffled me completely…..
Maybe I lived here before…
In another life…
In another time…..

Maybe it got nothing to do with a past life at all…..

Maybe it was because….when I was floating on my back in the hot spring, alone and naked and free, I looked into the sky, and saw something there…
And it felt Holy and knowing and it whispered to me:

“Go ahead… Ask my anything…”

And I asked:

Once a girl met two lost men..
She told them : “Heaven is REAL!”
They told her: “Hell is real!”

She said: “let me show you…”
And she showed them Paradise,
While they showed her Hell…

Is this justice?
Is this what she gets for showing them the Truth?…..”

And the sky spoke back to me…
It seemed as if the fluffy clouds came impossibly near me, and I heard a whisper:

“Can you really feel bad about extending your hand to help a lost brother out of Hell?….
Must you beat yourself up for trying…..
Can’t you see that you have extended your hand,
And ushered a brother out of Hell…

It was NOT your role to take them all the way to Paradise…
It is THEIR journey and they must find their own way here…
You were just meant to point the WAY…”

And I understood…
And my heart felt calm again…

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