A Very Newd Experience at “Big Fun”

We stood there completely naked.

It was 2 a.m. in Tokyo and we were in a bathhouse with 100 Japanese women—fully nude. If this isn’t stepping outside of one’s comfort zone, I don’t know what is. How did we end up here? Let’s rewind two hours and I’ll explain.

The women at the information desk giggled as if we should have booked this hotel five years in advance, “No, sorry, hotel full,” she said in her broken English. “Are you sure, totally full?” I pleaded, my eyes full of sleep and my body begging to be horizontal. We had been traveling for 24 hours and there we were standing in the Tokyo airport at midnight, with no place to stay. The trains were done for the day and a taxi to anywhere would cost us about the same as a kidney sold on the black market. We wanted so badly to bite the bullet and go to the nearest plushy airport hotel, but refrained as we could already hear our credit cards screaming. We eyed up the white tile floor and single metal bench that made up the arrivals area, before deciding this was not an option.

The sweet woman at the information desk—bless her heart—suggested we go to Big Fun. She proceeded to rummage through a pile of papers and pulled out a pamphlet that was 99.9% in Japanese aside from “STAY 3300¥”. I did the quick math in my sleepy brain and realized that was only $33 Canadian. Now we’re talking! All we needed to know was what exactly was Big Fun?  Due to the confused look on our faces, she tried her best to explain in English what it was, “Nice reclining chairs, big bath, free shuttle”. We liked those words and decided the Big Fun option was really our only option. I waved the Big Fun pamphlet at anyone who would look at me and attempted to find where this alleged shuttle bus was hiding. We finally found it—only God knows how—and piled on the bus at 1 a.m. with 50 Japanese people; they looked at us like we were from another planet and we kind of felt like we were.

Skip forward 30 minutes and we were at Big Fun: a building that looked like a mall. We followed the crowd of people and did what they did, having no idea where to go nor a clue what to do. We locked our shoes in individual shoe lockers, paid the nightly fee, and we were given bags that contained two towels and a set of pajamas. We were on our own, aside from the sweet Japanese front desk staff trying their best to use charades to tell us where to go. The signs around the building were thankfully in English and Japanese so between the charade attempts and the signs that said “relaxation room” and “women’s change” we kind of got the idea. We slowly realized that this was a bathhouse, or an onsen: something we later realized is very common in Japan. I had a distant memory that these onsens are to be entered completely nude.

Shay Daviau and Kristin Arneson
Shay Daviau and Kristin Arneson

To avoid being the odd ones out who went in naked when others were clothed, I attempted to peer into the onsen to see if everyone else was naked. Upon feeling creepy, we tried our best at charades and asked two young Japanese girls what to wear; they managed to explain that we needed to take everything off. We gasped at each other, shocked that we were about to go into a bathhouse, nude, with 100 other Japanese woman. The Japanese girls giggled and attempted to show us how to use the towel as some sort of a loincloth. We thanked them and stripped down to nothing but a towel that was the size of a face cloth.

There we were, amidst 100 Japanese women, completely nude. I think some people have nightmares about this kind of thing: being completely naked in a room full of strangers.

For us it was a large step, or rather a leap—straight out of our comfort zones and right into Japan.

We didn’t slowly ease into Japan like we thought we would, we had suddenly jumped in with two feet (literally). We sat there in the indoor hot spring baths, tried out the different types of saunas, and felt increasingly obese as we compared ourselves to the tiny Japanese woman. It was surprisingly relaxing after so many hours of travel, regardless of how far away from home we felt at that moment. Later on we found an actual—and much needed—shower, which luckily came with all the fixings: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and even disposable razors. Unfortunately and unluckily, the showers were two glass walled cubicles smack dab in the center of the whole hot springs area. It felt like we were on display, and although slightly unsettling, we went for it anyways.

After our very public showers, we changed into our pajamas and went to the “relaxation room”. Picture this: a large dark room full of 200 leather reclining chairs, full of snoring Japanese folks. While we couldn’t find any chairs beside each other, we settled for two on either side of a snoring 80-year-old Japanese man. We were lulled to sleep by the buzz of snores around us.

I was told when traveling to “expect the unexpected”. Cliché as that might be, in my experience it has rang true more often than not. As unsettling and weird as something may be in the moment, I can assure you that a week later it will be hilarious.

A good story always comes from an experience that has a few quirks.

Stepping way out of your comfort zone is the only way to have interesting experiences, even if those turn out to be newd experiences.


By Shay Daviau
Royal Roads University Student

The Cider Diaries: Tales of Cycling, Travel, and a Quest to Realize the Apple’s Deepest Purpose

Volume 1: An Unexpected Meeting
“So you’re with the…um…?”

“US Secret Service.”

‘Well, that explains the earpiece, stone cold expression, sunglasses, and poorly-fitting suit’ I thought to myself as I pressed shoulder to shoulder with the crowd, staring into the unflinching face of the United States’ finest.  Without intending to do so, myself and my cycling companions had found ourselves mere feet from Zoran Milanovic, Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia.  My fellow cyclist Tyler, clearly unnerved by the presence of secret service, tried to determine if his hands belonged in or out of his pockets by moving them in and out in furtive succession, prompting some cold stares from the watchful men with guns and little sense of humour.

We had woken up in tents nearby and cycled into downtown Gig Harbour, Washington on a cloudy late September morning to find the quintessential American chicken-fried steak breakfast experience.  Instead, we had unwittingly plunged ourselves into a throng of police, US Secret Service, the entire population of Gig Harbour Croatian enclave (all senior citizens), the political cabinet of Croatia, and ol’ Roarin’ Zoran himself.  Suddenly, we were unsure of how to proceed.  Seek out our greasy breakfast, or attempt to pull off the greatest unplanned group photo of all time?!  It’s not every day you come face to face with a head of state, after all.

The decision was quickly made for us, as Zoran was whisked through the crowd and into a waiting motorcade. Apparently the mid-morning mingle was over, and Mr. Milanovic was off to continue his tech tour across the U.S. Our window of opportunity over, we made our way to Kelly’s Cafe, the Gig Harbour breakfast spot, which was teeming with the Sunday morning breakfast crowd.

Our excellent XL-sized breakfast aside, our journey to the far reaches of Washington’s Puget Sound region had a purpose aside from an impromptu political meet-and-greet.  We had travelled 200 km by car, and 65 km by bicycle across land and sea, to attend The Greater Peninsula Cider Swig the previous afternoon, a family-friendly celebration of ‘hard apple cider’, as our American friends put it.   The reason for this trip deserves an diary entry all to itself, but in short, myself and my friends were, are, and will continue to be, working professionals moonlighting as cider makers, and striving to develop a commercial product to meet BC’s growing thirst for cider.  Our trip to Gig Harbor, and other forays into Washington and Oregon States, have served as reconnaissance, competitive intelligence gathering, learning, and heck, some cider-fueled good times.

In The Cider Diaries, I will share some stories relating to the trials and tribulations of making cider, regional cycle tourism in BC and Washington State, and other tales associated with learning the craft.  Hopefully, you the reader can learn a thing or two about the Pacific Northwest’s burgeoning craft cider industry, and have a few laughs at the expense of me and my companions along the way.  In the words of ye olde cyder lovers: Wassail!  And welcome to The Cider Diaries.

Yours in fermentation and long-haul rides,

Eric D.

ericdouglas
Eric Douglas is a Royal Roads graduate and entrepreneur. His serialized column will explore the beauty in cycling, travel, and cider production in the Pacific Northwest. 

Winter in Malta

Nadine Biggs
Maltese Waterfront

“Why did you choose Malta?” That was the question I received from friends and relatives prior to my trip. There were a number of reasons I chose to spend my winter break traveling to the tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean. A year round temperate climate, English as an official Language, cheap and reliable public transportation, and affordable accommodation all played a role in my decision to discover the Maltese Islands, but in the end, it was the picturesque medieval waterfront city of Valletta, and the medley of UNESCO World Heritage Sites that had the history buff in me eager to jump on a plane and start exploring.

Born and raised on Vancouver Island, I like to think that “Island Life” has a different pace, and I feel this was applicable to Malta as well. Although apart of the EU, the islands of Malta and Gozo did not have the hustle you get in most of Europe. With a population of just over 400,000 inhabiting the two islands, the main cities were busiest with the rest of the population spread out among a number of smaller cities.

We had two weeks to spend exploring and we wasted no time in checking off bucket list items. Visiting the 5,000 year old subterranean Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni. The Ġgantija Temples in Gozo. Eating gelato and traditional Maltese pastries while walking along the waterfront promenade. But some of our favourite days were spent off the beaten path. Unbeknownst to us, both Malta and Gozo provided endless unmarked trails and pathways weaving along the jagged rocky waterfront. Whether it was happening upon millennial-old Roman bee hives while pondering the shores of Gozo from the edge of Malta, or finding fossils while enjoying the warm Mediterranean sun on a dead end road, it was the experiences not listed in my travel guide that made me truly fall in love with the islands.

As a self proclaimed “foodie”, I was eager to delve in to whatever Malta had to offer. While the national dish of rabbit was not exactly to my liking (I prefer my bunnies alive), I happily overindulged in Ftira (Maltese style pizza), pasta and pastries galore. My favourite snack ended up being Pastizzi. Widely available from street vendors, cafes and restaurants, Pastizzi is a savoury pastry filled with either ricotta or mashed peas stuffed between many layers of soft flaky phyllo. At a cost of around 50 cents Canadian, it was a quick, cheap and delicious snack, and naturally became a staple of our diet.

When I returned home with stories and photos of coastal hikes along the turquoise ocean, 7,000 year old megalithic temples, retracing the steps of the Knights of Malta, and indulging in the traditional pastitzi and qasatata pastries, my friends and family were no longer asking “why” I chose Malta, rather they were looking in to booking a future trip for themselves.


Article by Nadine Biggs
MA Student, Intercultural & International Communications