A while back, I received a call from some sailors on an American aircraft carrier docked in Otaru Port. They’d been on board a few months were itching to get off and away from everything. They first contacted me while out at sea, so I asked them what kind of trip they wanted and if they had any special requests.
They wanted to know if I could arrange a couple of days hiking n Hokkaido and, if possible, include a soak in a natural onsen. I had the perfect place in mind. I received a second mail asking if I could meet them at their ship with a cooler full of beer.
I met the guys at the dock a few days later, and the first thing I did was give them a local brew before we headed for Daisetsuzan National Park. We hiked up to one of the campsites where the guys finished a couple of big bottles of sake and were in high spirits.
The next morning we awoke early, a bit of a mission for the boys. I started them out with a hard hike up one of Hokkaido’s highest peaks. A couple of them left their breakfast on the trail, but after about three hours we had worked our way to the peak where we ran into a couple of old Japanese hikers sitting down and enjoying a cold one. Not surprisingly, the old guys offered my boys a can. I had doubts we’d make it to the natural onsen at this rate, but two hours later, we were there.
We had Japan’s highest natural onsen all to ourselves. The pools were nestled in among the natural rock. My guys weren’t too keen on getting down to their birthday suits in the middle of nowhere. After about 15 minutes of soaking their feet in the hot pools a guy carrying a big, professional looking film camera turned up with two beautiful assistants.
Evidently, the guy was a well-known documentary filmmaker and one of the girls was a Japanese TV personality. They were in the park filming a documentary.
The guy was happy to see us because he really wanted to get a shot of people sitting in the onsen having a good time. He asked if we were keen to get undressed and into the pools, at least down to our underwear. I wasn’t that keen on showing off my body on national television and neither were the other guys, but after the two girls said they would join them wearing just a “humility towel,” you could have heard a pin drop.
You could tell they’d been out at sea for a while, because I have never seen a bunch of guys move so fast in my life. In the end, the filmmaker got his shot and the boys had something to tell their friends back on the ship.