Onsen, tiny fish, and praying at Telecom…

Everyone tells you that you can’t visit Tokyo without taking in the views from a few places. Tokyo Telecom Centre is one of them. Everyone also tells you that you can’t visit Japan without experiencing an onsen. Fortunately there is an awesome onsen resort called Ooedo-Onsen-Monogatari literally 2 minutes walk from the Telecom Station, so combining both things in one day is perfectly feasible!

And me being me (you know, less interested in buildings, and more interested in Japanese spa resorts) was honestly more excited about the onsen! However, this is also a great district to visit and pray in, because you really start to see the commercial part of the city, and the thousands of commuters making their way to work long hours in the commercial part of the city. 

To start with, today was still ferociously hot. Now I have heard that you’ve got a bit of a heat wave in the UK right now, but this really is heat like I’ve never experienced. I have never been so thankful to get on an air conditioned train! So my first stop was Shimbashi, where I then transferred onto a train out to the Telcom Centre. It was a pretty packed commuter train, and sitting just a few seats ahead of me were two young America guys, putting the world to rights and talking about how money can really satisfy you. When hearing English spoken in pubic is so rare, you tend to get drawn into anything you hear, and it was so sad to listen to these two guys in their early twenties talking about how earning a certain pay packet would really satisfy you and give you a fulfilled life. I didn’t speak to them because they were sightly further along the train, but I did pray for them for the time of the train ride! Anyway, remember these two, because they make a reappearance later in my day, in those great ‘coincidences’ that seem to happen with God!

So, I make my way to Ooedo-Onsen-Monogatari. It’s been about a 45 minute commute from Takadanobaba, so I am way out of familiar ground, but still, my directional sense is holding up. Here is the resort:

Now for those of you who don’t know anything about 温泉, an onsen is a Japanese hot spring, but the term is now also used to describe the bathing facilities around the hot spring in lots of places. So this resort holds a number of inside and outside pubic baths filled with natural hot spring water, a few saunas, and quite a lot of treatment rooms. When you arrive you are given a kimono to wear around the resort, and then pretty much left to it. 

Public bathing areas in onsen are also either all male or all female, because, well, lets just say you don’t do swimsuits in Japanese onsen (the less said about that the better. When in Japan…), so this place has separate male and female bath houses and then a communal foot bath, garden and eating area. 

And it’s bliss. 

You would think that people wouldn’t want to speak to strangers in an onsen, because, you know… but seemingly I was wrong about this presumption. My new friend from Singapore, who was not at all phased and wanted to speak English, instructed me that you have to use a very hot bath (like over 40 degrees), followed by a very cold bath (somewhere below 15 degrees). This is apparently good for your circulation, which I can’t comment on, but it does make you feel incredibly lightheaded if you get in and out of the extremes too quickly. Bizarrely refreshing. 

Anyway, this girl is in Tokyo for the month whilst her husband works here, so please pray she meets other Christians on her trip too.

After a couple of hours of onsen lounging I have to admit that I was feeling incredibly relaxed. We really don’t have anything quite like this in the UK!

I then decided to hit the foot bath, which remember is for both guys and girls, all kimono’d up. So, I enter the treatment room to have my feet eaten by tiny fish… And find myself sitting next to… The two America guys from the train! After we get over the sheer hilarity of hundreds of fish eating you alive (laughter really does form an immediate friendship!), we actually have a solid 30 minutes to talk about the more meaningful things in life. One of the guys lives in Tokyo and has been studying here for two years, the other was visiting his friend on the way to Vietnam. They are both from San Francisco originally, and it was a great opportunity to just share about my trip and my heart to move to Japan long term to be part of a church and work with children and young people. Again, please pray for these two guys and that they would meet other Christians as they go forward!

Oh, and here are my feet being eaten by fish. Which quite frankly, is weird, and I am glad served an evangelistic purpose.

I then thought I better drag myself away from sitting in onsen, to actually go and pray at the Telcom Centre, which is what the main plan for the afternoon was. So, I grab some rice and chicken for lunch from a local restaurant and head up to Floor 21. 

Which looks decidedly shut.

I have a wander into the office (like you do) and find a guy who speaks hardly any English, but we manage to communicate that the viewing floor is not open because the air conditioning is broken. However, he asks what I wanted to do, and when I tell him, he jumps up out of the office and runs up to the chained up entrance to the stairs. He excitedly beckons me to follow him, and then shouts ‘Wait! Wait!’ So I am standing at the bottom of this staircase on an empty floor wondering what in the world I have got myself into this time, when I hear the huge shutters being drawn back upstairs. 

He then excitedly runs back downstairs, unchains the entrance, and says, ‘No air work, but you go, go up!’ I try and pay him the normal entrance fee but he refuses to take it. 

The result: I had the whole viewing floor completely to myself to pray over Tokyo… And it cost me nothing. Amazing! I mean really, what an amazing experience, as this place is normally packed! And what a view!

So, it was another great day, and after a pretty full on weekend, wonderful to spend a day relaxing a bit more, and hearing God’s heart for Japan in prayer. There is more I could write on that, but I’ll keep this blog post quite lighthearted, and save some things for another day.

As we’re on a lighthearted blog though, I also have to share something that would normally be completely inappropriate.

Japanese toilets.



Technologically weird.

I can just about get my head around the toilets in my house. Which have weird bidet options and different flush buttons depending on what you’ve used the toilet for (i.e. they have the kanji 大 which means ‘big’ or the kanji 小 which means small). I get that. But this kanji combination 音楽 means music, and you will also find it existing on lots of public toilets. As in, don’t embarrass yourself by letting others hear your ‘toilet noises’, play strange, mobile phone ring tone sounding music instead. Nope. 

My dislike of public toilets is not assisted anymore by that one!! Hahaha!!

Tomorrow is a busy day. I’m joining the OMF field team for prayer in the morning, and then at an NPO that works with care leavers for research straight afterwards. Please pray for continued opportunities, and that tomorrow’s transport (which involves a lot of train transfers) would also be blessed. In the mean time, enjoy some more photos from my day.

Also, thanks so much for all the emails, comments, and WhatsApps! Your prayers and support mean the world to me and make a huge difference in every sense!



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