Sunday, March 14, 2004

Onsen egg blog.

Item from the early '90s. Nippon days and nights. The holiday I refer to is March 20 or 21, the spring solstice, a legal holiday in Japan.

March 22, 1992.

I just returned about an hour ago from an overnight onsen trip. The hot springs were pleasant, and not nearly as crowded as I thought a holiday weekend might be. We went to the ordinary public bath in the town, not the somewhat expensive small resort nearby, called "Refresh World," which -- to judge by the brochure -- is a complex of pools and saunas, all fed by thermal springs, like the public path. Maybe the crowds were at Refresh World.

As one place in town, the spring bubbles up into a couple of special outdoor pools; not wells, exactly, but low stone walls that square around the water. That's where you can taste the water -- it's slightly sulfurous -- and boil your eggs. Onsen tamago are what they're called, these eggs, meaning "hot springs eggs." As far as I could tell, they're ordinary chicken eggs sold in groups of five or ten in fish-net bags in every shop in the vicinity, marked up from the already outrageous price of eggs.

Once you buy a bag, you tie it to the bamboo poles crisscrossing the stone square, so that it dangles in the bubbling water, and wait 12 minutes. There's a big clock on a nearby pole for timing your eggs. Boiled, the onsen egg is a little hard to peel, slightly sulfurous-tasting, and otherwise very much like a boiled egg. I asked if egg-boiling is the custom at all the onsen. My companions, Japanese all, said yes. Actually, they said, "so so so."

On the way home, really a little out of the way from straight home, we visited the Tottori Sand Dunes, a park along the Sea of Japan. Pretty fair-sized piles of sand, with a nice vista from the top. They reminded me of the dunes on the coast of North Carolina, minus the hang gliders. There were a couple of parasailers (parasailors?), but they were down on the beach, and they never seemed to go anywhere anyway. Since these were sand dunes, some entrepreneur brought in some camels, three or four of the beasts, and was charging for rides. It was a mild novelty, but not worth Y2000 for a few minutes' ride.


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