Hot Springs, Tattoos, and Learning, Oh My!

Ben Krieger
August 25, 2014

Why hello there ladies and gentlemen!

Welcome to my wonderful world of blogs that are 100 to 500 words a piece. :) I’m all different sorts of pumped up for you to be following me in my second journey to Japan, and I hope you learn as much as I do along the way! How are you going to learn, you ask? Simple! I’m going to be sharing my experiences with you, my wonderful readers, as quickly as I can so you get a fresh view on the experiences you may one day have when visiting Japan. Let’s not waste any time in getting started!

As you may have noticed, I mentioned this is my second journey to Japan. My first trip was a two-month stint in a language intensive program in Beppu, Japan. If you’re a foreigner, you may know of Beppu because of your ability to stay in Hello Kitty or Cinnamoroll character rooms at the Royal Hotel in Beppu. However, a true Nihon-jin (Japanese person) would know of Beppu because of its incredibly high concentration of onsen, or hot springs. As a student at Asia Pacific University in Beppu, going to onsen (notice I’m not saying “onsens” because the Japanese language does not pluralize items in this way) was my favorite thing to do in order to decompress from the load of homework and classes every day. However, there’s two catches to onsen. First, you have to get entirely naked before entering. This is a turnoff for many, but my previous football locker room experience had me easily prepared for that! The second part, however, is much more difficult: most onsen simply do not allow people to enter if they have tattoos. Some will let you in, but professionally speaking, the association with tattoos in Japan goes hand in hand with gang members. In general, if you want full access to all onsen, public pools, and public gyms, don’t do what I did and start working on a half-sleeve tattoo before coming to Japan.

Don’t get me wrong, tattoos are not a bad thing. As I said before, the professional association of tattoos in Japan goes to gangs, but many younger generation members expressed interest in my tattoo and even told me they would like to get one as well. Being told that broke down the assumption that Japan is the super conservative culture I had always been told it was. It didn’t take long to realize that the people I met in Japan were just like me, and had interests that were incredibly similar to mine. Consequently, that goes along with your first lesson in Japanese: you should immediately eliminate any stereotypes you might believe in. Many of them aren’t true, and many will prevent you from taking in the experiences you could be having as an open-minded individual. Once you do that, follow me to see all the fun you’re missing out on. ;)

では、お元気で。(Well then, take care!)

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Ben Krieger

Hi all! My name is Ben Krieger, and I am a rising Junior at Miami University in Oxford, OH. I grew up in the Cleveland area as an aspiring professional football player, but clearly that is a path that I've abandoned because I'll be in Japan during my first season away from the game in fourteen years! I'm very excited to be in Tokyo for the fall, and I've been preparing to be able to at least survive in Tokyo by studying Japanese for the first time ever in Beppu, Japan this summer. I may not be great yet, but hopefully you'll watch me grow as I blog my way through the fall program!

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