Arielle was blessed to be part of mentor group here in Misawa a few years back. Kim asked if Arielle and two other young gals - 14 at the time - would like to meet weekly for a bit of time....and it was very good.
Here you see the whole group at one of Kim's (2nd from left) farewells from Misawa. Not only was this a great, faith grounding experience for Arielle, but deep friendships formed with the other two girls in the group. They've maintained that friendship. I believe these girls will be friends for life.
We tossed around several ideas for Arielle's 16th birthday party and in the end she decided a trip before we all move would be the most meaningful. Alicia had a birthday recently and agreed! This was a good thing for us moms - since we are fairly good buds as well. ::wink::
We massaged the ideas and the dates...and finally left Friday night for Aoni Onsen - a Traditional Japanese Ryokan. Becky suggested Aoni (and boy are we grateful she did). Going here HAD been on our bucket list and none of us had visited before. Aoni is built around natural hot springs...it's way up in the mountains and the scenery is breath taking. They are famous for lighting with lanterns (though there WERE electric lights in the bathrooms) and for their natural hot springs. The drive was an adventure and I was suitably impressed with Mary's skillful maneuvering of hair-pin turns and sharp inclines. Arielle reports the weekend was well worth the motion sickness the drive induced.
In the winter time snow mobiles meet you and drive you down into the little mountain valley where Aoni is located. I understand why!
We arrived right on time for our dinner of screaming fish. I was pleased to have MANY veggie options and happily passed the screaming fish and raw salmon off to the paleos in our midst.
This gentleman provided dinner entertainment. Arielle and I thought the Shamisen playing sounded a bit like a banjo....blue grass even....
He gave a bit of a speech and from the repeated mentions of lanterns and the word Aoni, we deduced he was sharing local history. Wish we could have understood.
Next up was Karoke...by this time we were trying to figure out how to politely exit the dining room.
We checked out our rooms, laid out futons, and jumped into yukatas to check out the onsens.
I can't describe the setting well enough to do it justice. It was peaceful and remote. Dim lantern light lent itself to the feeling of relaxation, and waterfalls and rapids created amazing "white noise." Our building had two rooms....the girls were in one room, with us women in another. Beneath us were onsens. Our windows opened to waterfalls....and the onsen had a beautiful view of the waterfall as well.
The outdoor onsen below our rooms
These shots don't convey the full impact of sitting in this tub under the stars sharing deep conversation about our shared Misawa experience, discussing our hopes for our next assignments and for our daugthers. The lantern light only added to the experience. This will be a treasured memory; one I'm glad we took the time to create for our daughters - and for ourselves. Becky and Mary packed out about a week ago. Becky and family will leave on Tuesday. We packed out this week. It was a good time to "breathe" and embrace the season in which we find ourselves.
I ALWAYS wake up early. This morning I set out to enjoy some quiet time, a nature walk and to grab some photos . Before I knew it, I'd set down the camera, stripped off the yukata and jumped into an outside onsen to enjoy the early a.m. mountain air, the quiet, the peaceful waterfall...and I enjoyed an impromptu worship service until the men showed up beyond the barrier with much less inspiring morning noises. ::snort::
This bridge took us from the main area across to "our side" of the getaway.
Rushing water beneath the suspension bridge
This was our building.....the blue is the men's onsen and the red is the women's. Only two rooms in this building...this would be a great spot for a PWOC board planning retreat...or a mentor group retreat. LOL
Mixed Bath Onsen
This was my favorite looking onsen, I loved all the cedar. I wanted to get a shot of a couple of women soaking...just a back view...but no one was game....ah well. ::snort:: This was above a rushing river, we opened the windows and had a magnificent view of trees and the mountain.
We roused the girls and headed down for breakfast. It was fun to see a man out gathering lanterns in the morning.
Breakfast....not as many vegan options...but with the rice, miso and pickled veggies I had plenty. I think I fared better than a girl or two who didn't really feel up to rice and fish for breakfast.
We discovered a little workshop where the man was servicing, refilling and cleaning lanterns.
An outside tub.....
The view from the tub!
Some things just can't be rushed....
The main building
The girls again
Arielle and I on the bridge....
Cropped to show our faces! ::snort:: Wow - she really is taller than me now. ::wink::
There are few times in life when you simply KNOW an idea was the RIGHT one and this is one of those times. I'm thankful God graced our lives with these friends and I go so far as to suspect He breathed the idea of the getaway into our hearts. Treasured memories...I may frame some of the onsen shots for one of our bathrooms in California.
Living all of life before the face of God...