Have you watched Yasujiro Ozu's 1953 film, Tokyo Story? There is a scene taking place where the grandparents sit on the seawall in Atami. Not really wanting to be there, the couple decides to go home. My daughter and I gazed at that seawall as we approached our hotel by taxi. We stepped out on to the pavement and were dwarfed by the massive Atami Korakuen Hotel. Why had the JTB agent selected this place for us?
We entered the long and spacious lobby and accessed our surroundings. There were shops, restaurants, an arcade, and a photography studio with Western and Japanese costumes, in addition to several setup photo ops along the indoor walkway.
We saw an elderly women have her picture taken in front of a large and lovely flower display, while other hotel guests opted for the traditional Japanese home scene and the luxurious palanquin spot. In the photo studio a woman was having a portrait taken. She was dressed all in yellow frills and looked to us to be a Southern Belle from the American South. We realized that the great majority of our company were elderly men and women. Amanda had mentioned that the elderly enjoy visiting the hot springs, and she was right.
We woke quite early the following morning, and I went to use the hotel onsen about 5:00 am. There was one woman already there, and from across the room we both showered and shampooed. To me, using that shower head bursting with hot water and spraying it over my head and through my hair was heavenly.
Afterward, I cautiously attempted to slip into the bath, but it felt too hot. After a few tries, I finally made it in. I saw the other woman get into one of the other baths. As we both relaxed, an elderly woman rushed into the bath area and instead of washing, she headed right for a bath and hopped in. I was really surprised that a Japanese woman would do that!
A bit later, Amanda and I walked up and down the hall looking in the shop windows before the dining hall opened for breakfast at 7:00 am. It was very quiet and we were the only ones about, so we took some photos of our own. We sat down on a bench and waited.
A few minutes before 7:00, the doors opened and a waitress stepped out. At that EXACT instant three men rushed straight for the door. We hadn't even seen them prior to that moment. All of a sudden hordes of elderly visitors appeared, and we got nervous and thought we had better get in there. I opted for a table away from the masses and we each picked up trays and entered the buffet area. Again, I was really surprised and Amanda was, too.
The place was a madhouse with both women and (mostly) men jockeying for their choice of breakfast foods. We wondered if this is what happens when the elderly go off together in large groups - an "I'm on vacation now and I can do whatever I want" sort of attitude. We had no idea.
Sitting near us we saw a Japanese man dressed in a yukata provided by the hotel. Earlier, we had read a sign instructing guests to not wear the robes anywhere except in their room. The message was not even phrased as a request - it pretty much said "don't do it." So did this man fail to notice the instructions or was he just doing what he wanted?
I guess I believed that it was the norm in Japan for rules to be observed, so this was an eye-opening experience. People in Japan can act non-politely - at least when they're on vacation.
Inside Track Japan For Kindle