Friday, October 7, 2011


Because of the marathon on Saturday, I had Monday off.  However, most of my friends did not.  So, I decided to go off and search for outdoor onsens.  I've gone island-hopping, and I've done bar-hopping, so on Monday, I went onsen-hopping at Kussharo Lake.  

One of my favorite things about Japan are its onsens.  Onsens are a little like hot tubs but come from natural hot springs.  Because of all the volcanic activity in Japan, there are hot springs everywhere.  Onsens are purported to have health benefits, and are used for relaxation and bathing. I found a total of six onsens, but one was occupied the whole time so I didn't take a photo, and the other looked like it might have required opening gates or crossing private property - not something I'd risk alone! 

Here are just a few pictures from my mini road trip. Enjoy!

Bihoro Togue Viewpoint

A view of Lake Kussharo

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Running Festival!

Running Festivals are really a euphemism for a mandatory runs.  As far as I know, every high school in my city – and most in Hokkaido – have some sort of mandatory run for their students. 

At my base school, the girls run 30km and the boys run 42km (26 miles).  All students are required to be there, and the few students who don’t have to run still go to the school so that they can volunteer all day. Of the approximately 600 students at this school, only 10 students had medical reasons to not participate in the running, and almost all the students eventually finished.  The first students starting finishing about three hours after their 7:30am start, while the final students came in around 3:00pm that day.  
(Above) Me in front of my base school and the finish line

I really like the idea.  I still think the distance could pass for torture in the States, but maybe something shorter might be worth considering.  Though I saw a lot of students who just wanted the day to be over, I also saw a lot of camaraderie.  There was school spirit, and students were proud of their accomplishment.  All students – even the best runners – were challenged by this race, but almost none failed to complete the task.  

It’s weird, but 30-40km doesn’t seem too shocking anymore. To be fair, I wasn’t the one running. But perhaps I got used to the idea after last year’s marathon, or maybe it’s because I found out about what other schools do.