CISB Student

Come to Norway, Meet the World

Monday, October 14th, 2013

by Vi Nguyen 

After spending six weeks at the International Summer School, I have the ability to say that with my personal experience, the ISS has beyond succeeded with their motto of “Come to Norway, meet the world.” I was able to not only meet wonderful Norwegian people but also others from all over the world. Each year the ISS invites hundreds of students from all over the world to learn about their culture, language and other subject areas. Towards the end of the program, the ISS hosts an event called “The ISS Culture Night.” This is an event where the students at the ISS wear their traditional costumes from their home country and performs their traditional dances. Before the show, they also have booths representing each country where they reveal their traditional customs with finger foods, history, etc. Because of this event, I was able to learn a lot about other countries but in particular I learned a lot about South Africa and Georgia.

Vi Nguyen in Norway

Set aside from the school experience, I encountered a culture difference that I often retell to my friends and family. It is rather a funny situation now that I think about it.

It was a Sunday evening and because everything is closed on Sundays the traditional thing to do on Sundays is to catch a movie at Saga’s movie theatre. My friend and I decided to watch Pacific Rim. As I ordered the movie ticket, the cashier asked where I would like to sit during the movie. I casually responded it doesn’t matter where I sit…having the thought that I would enter the movie theatre and decide where to sit where there’s availability just like here in the states. The cashier continued to bother me with the question of where I would like to sit, do I want to sit in the back or in the middle…I then got a little frustrated and responded o.k. I’m just going to go in and sit where there’s availability o.k. ? The cashier then respectfully explained to me that here in Norway when ordering your movie tickets you also receive assigned seats. I was not aware of this difference, and felt terrible…I then apologized and was assigned a seat in the middle. This was one of many culture differences that I have encountered. I have learned to be more aware and respect the culture differences.

No Trek for Amateurs

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Written by: Rebecca Ruh, Foster School Undergraduate, Foster Exchange in Chile

rebecca1

About halfway through my time in Santiago, my fellow Coloradan friend asked me if I would like to join him for a day of hiking just on the outskirts of Las Condes, una comuna in the city of Santiago. Loving the outdoors and hiking, I leapt at the offer.

What began as a leisurely hike soon transformed into a workout for pros. The first hour passed relatively easy but the following five entailed much exhaustion due to the steep incline and lack of tread on my shoes. After all, the desert sand was no match for my indoor running shoes. As we passed the other hikers clad with trekking poles and professional gloves, they scoffed at the sight of these American amateurs. One lady, with a pitying look on her face even gave me one of her poles saying that I would need it for the journey down the mountain and she was more than right.

rebecca2When we finally ascended the summit and trudged through the snow up top, quite different from the desert sand when we began our journey, the smell of victory was in the air. After finishing 15 miles of pure uphill battle 20 minutes from the center of the city, I felt so proud. First it was amazing that such a view lay so close to the heart of Santiago, much less that we could take in the skyline since we had climbed much higher than the view-hindering pollution now below us. Secondly, this was the thrill that I seek – exploring a region, seeing cacti to snow in the matter of several thousand meters, and talking to the locals about this hidden gem of a view that lay before us. Couldn’t get much better than that. The best 11 hours to spend a Sunday. Man, I love this country.

El Dieciocho the Chilean Way

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Written by: Rebecca Ruh, Foster School Undergraduate, Foster Exchange in Chile

rebecca1

For el dieciocho, a Chilean celebration of independence on September 18th, I desired to spend it with Chileans. Some other foreign exchange students invited me to travel with them, but I yearned for the true Chilean experience. After all, spending one of the biggest Chilean holidays with a bunch of gringos wouldn’t give me a true sense of the special day, but more of an Americanized version. So when one of my Chilean friends invited me to join him and 14 of his guy friends in Algarrobo on the coast, I immediately said yes.

To tell you the truth, I’d only talked with this “friend” two times prior to his invitation and so joining him and all of his friends in a house for four days seemed a little risky, but at the same time I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to make more friends and experience la Fiesta Patria the Chilean way. Plus I figured that it is situations like these where putting yourself outside of your comfort zone is more than necessary and often results in spontaneous fun, often better than anything planned.

rebecca2

In a matter of four days, these Chileans introduced me to a holiday to be remembered. The days were filled with the beach, volleyball, paddleball, and flea markets while the evenings with piscolas (pisco and coca cola) and wine paired with enough meat to feed an army. Then when midnight hit, we’d make way to the fonda, a fair, with terremotos and chicha (two famously sweet Chilean drinks), churros with manjar, and la Cueca (a traditional Chilean dance), only to return to the house to continue storytelling.

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In addition to experiencing and learning so much about Chilean culture, I met some great friends who welcomed me with open arms and included me in every activity. I felt beyond comfortable and anything but anxious and worrisome. I’m so thankful for days like these and the adventurous spirit that pushes me to test my boundaries.

 

“Patri, mirrraaaaa”

Friday, January 11th, 2013

By: Patricia Mayer, Foster Undergraduate

Mira=look, or in Jorge and Miguel’s language “hey look at meee!”

I should have learned the first time. Never, ever, look. A few days ago my host family got home after picking Jorge up from karate practice. As I was studying in my room, Jorge ran in dressed in his Karate robe and practiced one of his moves on my arm. A few minutes later I hear “Patri, mirraaaa!!” I glance over to my doorway where Jorge, who escaped from Chety’s grasp midway through changing into pajamas, stands butt-naked dancing and sticking his tongue out at me. I almost fell out of my chair laughing, and the best part was, after a long day at work Chety didn’t have the energy to wrangle an unruly Jorge and let the incident go without punishment.

This might have been the reason why yesterday, as I walked out of my room I was met by Jorge mooning me. Wanting to be just like his big brother, Miguel quickly joined in. And soon I was trying to figure out how to yell the boys are mooning me in spanish. Something I don’t think I will ever have to say again in Spanish.

And another prime example of the adventures of Miguel and Jorge:

Today, a distressed Eli burst through the door as both boys screamed and talked a mile a minute. I learned they had been at the super market earlier and had been refusing to behave. (Note: they are normally very well behaved, eat all they are given, tell their parents they love them and give them a kiss) But today, they wouldn’t listen to Eli at all in the supermarket. Somehow, while Eli grabbed something off the shelf, Jorge became in charge of pushing the cart which held Miguel as a captive passenger. Because he is 5 and can’t see over the cart, Jorge plowed straight into a coca cola display, knocking a ton of stuff over, and catapulting poor little Miguel out of the cart. Miguel showed me his leg which at the present moment has a giant purple bruise.

I don’t know how I’m going to say goodbye to these guys. After spending 3 months eating my meals in the center of chaos (and the best free entertainment you could ask for), I don’t want to leave!

Studying and Interning in Tokyo

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

By: Keith Pratt; Foster Undergraduate

Part 1: If you’re considering studying/living in Japan, you’ve probably read blogs and watched Youtube videos about Japan’s ancient tourist sites, amazing convenience stores, extremely packed but convenient train systems and somewhat eerie robotic toilets, but you probably haven’t heard very much about what its companies, called kaisha, are like. So, in this blog post, I will “humbly receive your letting me write,” as they say in formal business Japanese, about my experience interning at a company in Japan. (I won’t list the name of the company in this blog.)

When I entered the company, a Japanese multinational corporation with over a hundred billion dollars in assets, I was taught a little about what the company does and the basics of customer interaction including the ritual of exchanging business cards (which is an entire topic of its own), and then I was sent off to the division I would be interning at. Most of the content of the internship involved shadowing various eigyou-man (somewhat of a slang term), who perform the extremely critical tasks of maintaining customer relationships, making sales/negotiating business transactions, and drinking with customers (I wish I were joking). The company opted to spare me the last function “since you’re still a student.”

The people I worked with—and the company as a whole—were very hospitable and helpful, and I felt like they did their best to make me feel comfortable at the company. Having said that, while I won’t go into the details of my every day, there were some memorable moments one might describe as culture shocks…

Experience 1: Eigyou-man (plural) in Japan meet with clients. A lot. And while my Japanese wasn’t perfect, I knew enough of it to understand that a lot of what the conversations were about had absolutely nothing to do with business. In fact, one day after the team I was with took well over an hour to get to one of our customers’ offices out in a more rural part of Japan, we met with our client, a slightly older gentleman, and for the first forty-five minutes did nothing but talk of the exquisite splendor of Japan’s rich history and other such topics relating to the greatness of Japan. After taking about a half-hour talking about actual business, he proceeded to offer me advice about how to deepen my understanding of what it means to be Japanese through a range of different

methods, and then inquired as to whether one of the other eigyou-man, a girl only a few years older than I, had read the book he recommended to her the last time they met. (It turns out she had bought it but hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet.) We then made the one-hour plus trip back to the office. This kind of experience wasn’t that far from normal.

Experience 2: Another day, an eigyou-man in his mid-twenties and I visited a traditional Japanese electronics company that made about forty billion dollars/year in revenue. The eigyou-man I was with had a fairly close relationship with the company we were visiting, and after briefly talking about some business the eigyou-man on my side changed the topic and bluntly said to the person from the other company, “Please buy these baseball tickets.” And he replied, “okay.” I could not believe my ears—baseball tickets had nothing to do with the electronics company, but he agreed to buy them regardless. I later learned that this type of purchase was normal in order to maintain good relationships between companies (*facepalm). We then bowed, exited the room, and entered the elevator to go down to the first floor… but the man from the other company was still with us. Upon reaching the first floor, we exited the elevator, bowed again, said goodbye and thank-you, and headed towards the set of three sliding doors we would walk through. Before passing through the first sliding door, we turned around, made eye contact with the man who was still standing there, bowed again, and then passed through the first door. This happened twice more, every time we passed through a set of sliding doors, until we were completely out of sight. When it comes to traditional Japanese companies, this is supposedly normal as well.

These are only a couple of my many experiences of visiting Japanese companies.

Part 2: Only a little bit of my time in Japan was actually spent interning, so I’m going to write out some of my thoughts and bits of advice for those of you considering/planning an exchange program in Japan such as one at Gakushuin University.

For those of you studying Japanese, you’ve probably already had some level of exposure to keigo, and you’re probably concerned about not being able to use it properly. But here’s my advice: relax, since just about all the college students in Japan are feeling the same way. In fact, I’ve heard some Japanese people comment on how gaijin (foreigners) are often better than many Japanese at keigo because the Japanese aren’t taught it in school like gaijin are—so don’t worry about it too much. Just make sure you know the basics really well.

For those of you concerned about the smoke in Japan, yes—it is a lot worse than it is in Seattle. However, it’s not nearly as bad as it was in the past; in fact, it’s outlawed in most public places in Tokyo as well as in many restaurants and cafes. Also, I’d like to note that not once was I ever pressured to drink; people were very understanding, to my pleasant surprise.

One of the greatest inconveniences of Japan is the difficulty to get free wifi—not even Starbucks offers free wifi. You can get wifi boxes from service providers like Softbank, but don’t expect to be connected to the internet unless you enter into some kind of contract with a company.

I was pleasantly surprised was to see how lively and energetic the churches I visited in Tokyo were. I often hear how few people in Japan are religious, but I was actually able to make many deep friendships with the locals, especially college students in Tokyo, through the different churches here.

A few other words of advice would be to keep track of when the last trains of the day are; to be active in making friends in your classes, “circles”(clubs), churches, student groups or whatever other organizations you may choose to join since your time in Japan will fly by before you know it; and to make a lot of Japanese friends before leaving for Japan, not only to gain practice speaking, but also since they can help you out once you’re in Japan.

Going to Japan is definitely the best way to improve your Japanese, but in order to make the most of it, you have to speak Japanese. Don’t worry about whether your Japanese isn’t good enough—go for it anyway! I’m not saying you have to hang out with only Japanese people, but having conversations in Japanese with your friends will go a long way in improving your ability to communicate, especially if you own a denshi jisho, an electronic dictionary. Denshi jisho are excellent for intermediate and advanced learners of Japanese, and I think they’re indispensable for understanding lectures in school and learning words while watching TV or talking with friends because you can find words with them far more efficiently than you can with a paper dictionary. Some advantages over using smartphone dictionary apps include longer battery life, better dictionaries/ word lists, and easier word input.

Lastly, I highly, highly recommend finding a host family if at all possible. The quality of my stay in Tokyo was doubled, both in getting to create valuable relationships and in practical ways such as being able to practice my Japanese over dinner, because I was able to stay with my host families.

As I write this, I’m actually in Kyoto studying at Kyoto University, which is quite an experience in of itself. After this semester ends, I will head back to Tokyo where I will do one last internship before returning to Seattle. Since I’ll have experienced living in both Tokyo and Kyoto, if you have questions about what they’re like—or any questions about studying in Japan in general—I’d be happy to answer them!

I hope you make the most of your time abroad, and happy travels!

Navarra Summer Program!

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

The University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain is the perfect place to study Spanish in the summer. Located in Northern Spain, you can easily travel to Bilbao to see the Guggenheim, San Sebastian to spend the afternoon on the beach, or Hendaye and Biarritz to see the beaches of Southern France. There are castles, monasteries, and Roman ruins all within an hour of Pamplona. For a longer weekend trip you can easily take a bus or train to Barcelona to visit La Rambla, the Joan Miro Museum, and the works of Gaudí. Our Spanish language classes are in the central building on campus and there are students from France, Hong Kong, England, and Germany in the program.

The class is small compared to UW, only seven students in our Spanish class. The tennis courts on campus are fabulous as is the cafe. The casco viejo, or old part of Pamplona, has cobblestone streets lined by colorful buildings with balconies. In the main plaza, you can order a cafe con leche and croissant at the same restaurant Ernest Hemingway describes in his novel, The Sun Also Rises. Pamplona is known for its elaborate pinchos, Spanish appetizers. If you arrive in Pamplona in early July, you can experience San Fermines, the yearly celebration in Pamplona with a bull runs every morning, music in the plazas, bull fights in the afternoon, and fireworks at night.

Written by Zea Collentine, UW Foster School Student

Park Guell in Barcelona

Guggenheim in Bilbao

San Sebastian

Fostering the International Connection

Monday, November 21st, 2011

By: Sam Bradley-Kelly, Foster Undergraduate

Robert M. Hutchins once said, “A world community can exist only with world communication, which means something more than extensive short-wave facilities scattered about the globe. It means common understanding, a common tradition, common ideas, and common ideals”.  While I am more than halfway done with my study abroad in Cádiz, Spain, I reflect back on the transformation that has happened to me.  As a student apart of the Certificate of International Studies in Business program, through my experiences in the classroom, weekly CISB lectures, and participation in other GBC experiences such as the IKEA Case Competition and Global Business Case Competition, these tools have helped me evolve my appreciation for the global community.  This being my second international study experience (first in Guadalajara, Mexico), I have really taken the opportunity to do things I would never have dreamed of doing.

Prior to my study abroad, I traveled throughout Italy with the seven days I had given myself.  Through good fortune, I met two sisters from Canada in Rome that were more than kind of enough to let me travel with them.  We stopped in Tavernelle for a night which is a beautiful village nested by locally-owned vineyards and full of lively young children and grandparents enjoying a roast BBQ out in the middle of the streets.  Before departing from my fellow Canadians, we dragged our bodies through the streets of Florence as the sun roasted our fragile bodies.  Water and gelato had never sounded so refreshing.

 After saying my farewells, I took a train to Venice for a day.  After putting my bags in a locker and ready to explore this Atlantis-like city, I ran into a person from Monterrey, Mexico also embarking on their own adventure of Venice.  I politely went up to them, asked if they had any specific plans, they said no, and I invited them to be my buddy for the day. We mustered all throughout this unique city checking out churches and museums that did not cost us even a nickel.  The best part, I had the 2×1 opportunity of talking in Spanish with someone from a different country…in Italy!

Fast forwarding to now where I’m studying in Cádiz, Spain, I have really taken the approach of looking at the glass as half full, rather than half empty.  A few months ago, my director posted on the bulletin board that a team from my university needed a goalie.  Luckily, having packed my goalie gloves and having the desire to play a little fútbol, I gave them a ring.  Ever since, I play soccer every week and even had the chance to go over to some of the players houses to play video games and talk about their lives in Spain.

Also, our director was contacted by a professor teaching English at the university wanting to start up an intercambios or exchange where local students take part in activities with students from our program.  Recently, we had a Halloween celebration where we carved pumpkins, dressed up volunteers in wacky costumes, and shared much laughter and joy.

 

Following this, I decided to travel to Madrid by myself, but I had the fantastic opportunity to meet up with a high school friend who is studying there through another study abroad program.  She was so kind enough to point me in the right direction to see famous landmarks such as the Museo del Prado, the Plaza de Toros, the Rastro Market and the Royal Palace of Madrid.  It was also a pleasure to meet new friends with the same intentions to not only learn and understand a new language, but also has the same kind of motivation to immerse yourself to a new culture.

 

The highlight of all my connections would be with one of my past Spanish teachers who had moved back to Granada, Spain.  During one of our program excursions to Granada, I seized the chance to call him up and plan a get-together as many of those in our program had taken a class or two with this teacher.  We shared our stories of Spain and our future plans while we enjoyed mini-sandwiches with french fries (I have to say they were some of the best french fries I have had in a LONG time).  I enjoyed this the most as the idea of meeting up with friends I have known for a long time (even if it’s my teacher) makes me appreciate the little things in life.  I am especially grateful to have seen my teacher as he has been responsible for connecting me to many of the friends within and outside of this program.

In life you might encounter people that are from a different country, speak a different language, experience a different culture, but at the end of the day, you can always become friends.  I see that through  studying abroad you can really globalize your life by meeting those that are strangers around you.  It takes a long time to grow a friendship, but every friend is a door to a new world.  What I take away from this trip is having friends is one thing, but savoring the opportunities presented to spend time with strangers and friends you might not see in a long time, especially in a foreign country, is priceless.

Bienvenido a Cádiz…y España!

Friday, September 30th, 2011

By: Sam Bradley-Kelly, Foster Undergraduate

Hola a todos! My name is Samuel Bradley-Kelly.  I am a senior studying Business Administration with a focus in Finance and International Business (CISB Program: Spanish Track), as well as a Foster Honors student.  I decided to complete my study abroad in Cádiz, Spain because of two reasons.  The first was due to the persuasion of my fellow colleagues who did this program last year.  The second was due to the Dutch students I met while studying abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico my first year at UW; they convinced me that I had to go to Europe.

Cádiz is a beautiful town situated on a peninsula in the southeast corner of Spain.  Locally-owned stores line up the allies of Casco Viejo, which is the old part of town that I’m currently living in and where the university is located. At dusk, there is the opportunity to witness photo-perfect sunsets.

As a business major, what excites me the most is that Cádiz is big for their port (along with tourism).  The port is located 5 minutes away from me and is nearly the size of many medium to large-sized ports in the US.  Another beauty, that I have the chance of strolling through every single day, is Plaza Mina which is a block from my place. Late at night, families love to find a bench or an outside restaurant to post up at and enjoy the harmonization of a summer breeze, a cold beer or helado (ice cream), and young children playing fútbol or other various games.

Many of us that are a part of this program have had the chance to also explore other cities in Spain which include Ronda and Sevilla.  Ronda is famously known for the three bridges or Puente Romano (Roman-style bridges) as well as their traditional bullfight that takes place once a year (unfortunately we left a few hours before the event was to take place).

Sevilla is one of the main connecting cities to Madrid (by plane and train) as well as to other European countries as it serves host to an international airport (which I will be using to go to Paris in a few weeks!).  Sevilla is a fantastic get-a-way especially for those that are in search of Flamenco.  I personally want to thank Madison for putting together this great trip, especially picking out a great hostel called Oasis Backpackers’ Hostel.  Also, the evening that I got to personally witness a local Flamenco show, a few of us had the chance to try out tapas near our hostel. Imagine a small plate with grilled ox sirloin skewer with honey garlic sauce.  The best part of this dish is not the meat but using the free bread to dip into the leftover sauce.

If I put my finger on one of the best cultural moments in Spain so far, it would be the night that we were in Sevilla. As we were walking to go watch this Flamenco show, we encountered a group of locals outside of a restaurant playing musical instruments and singing traditional folklore songs.  I included a picture to give visual meaning.

I look forward to continue sharing my experience with everyone over the next three months of my journey! Chao!

A Few Facts About Santiago, Chile

Monday, September 12th, 2011

By: Nicole Winjum, Foster Undergraduate

I have been working on this blog post for awhile, making note of differences and simple facts of life I have seen while living in Santiago, Chile. It’s certainly not a complete list, and I am sure I’m forgetting something, but here are a few of the things I’ve noticed.

PDA: There is a lot of it, and not just the hand-holding, brief kiss on the lips kind. I’m talking making out on the subway, literally lying on top of each other in the park, openly groping each other in the street kind. In the United States, PDA is usually frowned upon, and while you might see the occasional couple going at it, those sightings are few and far between. But not here. If you are young and in love in Santiago, you are all for displaying that love for everybody to see. Seeing couples being so touchy-feely in public has definitely taken some getting used to.

Dogs: They are everywhere. Not only does just about every Chilean family seem to own a dog or three, but there is an abundance of street dogs with no apparent home. You can always hear dogs barking at all hours of the day and night and everywhere you look there are dogs laying about in the sun. And the truly surprising thing is that, unlike the half-starved mangy dogs in Costa Rica, these dogs all seem to be fairly well fed.

Streets: Nobody cleans them. I mean, not every street is covered in stuff, but many are. This was most noticeable in Valparaiso, but it’s true in Santiago too. The other day when I was riding the Micro (that’s the bus system) we passed by a street that looked like an entire farmers market worth of vegetables got thrown about. It was crazy. And it isn’t just vegetables and pieces of plastic. Due to the abundance of dogs I mentioned earlier, there is dog crap everywhere. You have to constantly be on the lookout so you don’t accidentally step in something gross.

Bread: Eaten with every meal. Which is actually something I am quite thrilled with. I love bread and, due to my somewhat finicky eating habits, it is often the only food I can eat while traveling to foreign countries. But the Chileans eat bread as often as the French. It’s primarily sold in these funny little 4-roll loaves (see photo). For breakfast you might have one or two rolls slathered in butter and jam with a cup of tea. For lunch and dinner, you may use a roll to clean your plate or as an appetizer. For dessert, a little bit of manjar spread on some bread can not be beat. I was surprised by the sheer amount of bread consumed here, but I am not complaining!

Smoking: Everybody does it. I’m no stranger to smoking. My mom smokes, and I know a lot of people who might smoke a cigarette or two while drinking, but most of the people I know back home really do not smoke. Which is not that surprising considering the ad campaigns and research studies we are inundated with, telling us that smoking kills. But here it is as if nobody is getting those messages. I have heard about places like France having a lot of smokers, but I just was not really expecting it here. The most surprising is the number of younger Chileans that smoke, college age and even younger. In the US, it seems like the majority of smokers that I know are older, people who have been smoking before the health risks became so well known. But in any case, this has been one of the harder things to become accustomed too, since I really can’t stand the smoke.

Lemons: They love them. Seriously, I never knew people could like lemons so much; they put it on everything. You ordered a salad? Squeeze some lemon juice on it. You’re eating some fish? It’ll taste better with some lemon juice on it. You want a snack? Just snack on a lemon. I have literally seen people on the bus just sucking on a lemon. With dinner every night we usually have a side salad, which is iceberg lettuce with lemon juice, oil, and salt. Sometime we will have a carrot salad or a broccoli salad or a cauliflower salad. Which just involves said vegetable, lemon juice, oil, and salt. I believe I’m actually becoming quite fond of lemons. :)


A few other things to note…

  • The typical greeting is the one-cheek kiss, and it can get awkward if you go for the handshake and they go for your face.
  • They are big fans of avocado here, which surprised me for some reason, but I love avocado so it’s okay with me.
  • There is a sad lack of cheese here, and the few types they have are pretty expensive. I want to eat more or less like a local, so it isn’t so bad, but I am definitely missing cheese.
  • Names can get a bit confusing: In my 25-person Marketing class, there are 7 girls named Maria.
  • This isn’t the Spanish you have been learning in class. Yes the words are more or less the same, but their vocab is a little different and some phrases have different connotations. They also speak very fast here and sometimes drop the “s”. The youth say cachai? after almost every sentence which basically means “you know” “understand?”
  • Ciao is the customary goodbye around here. I know I lot of countries use Ciao as a goodbye, but I still associate it with Europe, so it caught me a bit off guard.

Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

I’m kicking myself now for not trying out a Tokyo onsen sooner.  I had gone to one around two years ago at a hotel in Miyazaki and was just not impressed.  I went with my host family, and it felt like nothing more than an expensive bath where old ladies stare at you because they’ve never seen a white person naked before.  My mistake was assuming that all onsens would be that, well, lame.

Erika (2)Even if you’re not that interested in onsens, I still highly recommend checking out Ooedo Onsen Monogatari.
Japanese site English site

This onsen was recently remodeled and has a very clean, new feeling to it.  While it certainly attracts a lot of foreigners, the majority of the patrons are Japanese.  The entrance fee was cheaper because it’s summer now (about ¥2000) and the food/souvenirs/massages weren’t that bad either!  They give you a key bracelet with a barcode that shop workers will scan when you purchase something extra.  They tally it all up when you leave the onsen so you can walk around and not have to worry about storing your wallet in your yukata (but you can still easily carry your digital camera, etc in the sleeves if you want).

I ate sushi, oden, two iced oolong teas and a giant shaved ice and bought two bath salt packets for omiyage and my total ended up being just short of ¥3000.  The food was very good too, not typical tourist trap food.  That made my total about ¥5000, which is not bad considering it was an all-day affair!  I believe you’d pay considerably more on a trip to Tokyo Disney Land.

There are multiple natural hot spring pools (including outdoor ones) and saunas.  The main baths/saunas and the outdoor footbath are free.  For other things like the sand bath and massages you’ll have to pay extra.  If you’re so inclined, they also have a bath where tiny fish eat the dead skin cells off your feet.  As much as I like trying out “quirky Japan” things, it was one of the more expensive services so I passed.Erika (1)

The nice thing about Tokyo is that they’re much more used to foreigners so there’s no awkward staring (at least to my knowledge) when you’re bathing.  Soap and shampoo is included as are brushes, hair serums and blow dryers afterwards.  I don’t know about the men’s side however, because this is not a mixed-gender onsen. (more…)