Traditions of Relaxation in a Stressed Society

Having you ever wondered about the customs surrounding Japanese onsen culture? Take a look at my blog to learn more about my experience at a traditional onsen town.

Montana-jin in Japan

Even in the west, we have heard crazy stories about the Japanese work ethic. Well, unfortunately some of these are not stereotypes but facts for many working in Japan. The Japan Times wrote an article in October of 2016 reporting that 1 in 4 Japanese companies admitted that their workers put in 80+ hours of overtime per month. The term karoshi refers to “death by overwork,” and actually happens. In 2015 the Japanese government recognized 96 strokes and heart attacks as work related. In the same year, the National Police Agency reported 2,159 suicides that were at least partly related to work stress.

But alongside this intense work environment lives deep seeded traditions of relaxation, one of the most prevalent being bath culture. The vast majority of Japanese people prefer bathing (generally at night) compared to Westerners who more often prefer showers. Visiting a traditional onsen (hot springs bath) is very popular…

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Week Fourteen: Moving to the Mountains


See more photos and read about my trip at

My internship technically ended two Fridays ago, but my boss and I agreed that I could keep coming in to work through the rest of my stay. I’ve been in South Africa about three and a half months now and have two and a half more to go! I’ve been interning at a film company called Kalahari Film & Media with Michael Murphey (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, District 9, Dredd, etc.) and making a documentary about renewable energy on my own.

I had to move this week, since my contract for my old house expired along with my internship. Luckily I decided to just spend all my time in the mountains, so I don’t even need a bed (hah). In all seriousness though I found a new place on Gumtree, South Africa’s Craigslist, and am really happy with my move. The house use to be a church before it was renovated to become a textile factory and restaurant. Now, after more renovations, the restaurant piece has been converted into a beautiful 6 bedroom home – and I’m one of the first people to live in it. It’s a massive space with an absurd amount of bathrooms (six toilets, four showers, and two urinals), a long outdoor veranda, a pizza oven, a courtyard, and two beautiful living rooms.

I’ve been camping a ton over my trip now that I add it all up. I’ve spent nights at Cederburg, Sandy Bay, Die Dam, Langebaan, Simon’s Town, Slangkop, and Kogel Bay over the past eight weeks. I don’t plan on stopping either. There’s so much more to see and everywhere I go I find something new and amazing.

I woke up on Sandy Bay beach this week after spending the night with a big group of friends. We drove to Hout Bay market for breakfast after gathering our things and trudging up the dunes, then drove back to Obs in time to see Julia’s art exhibition. She’s a young award winning American artist, definitely worth a look. Monday and Tuesday I got out and about after work, relaxing on Blouberg and Llandudno beaches. My coworker Monde invited me to watch a film she helped create through the City Varsity Film School called Sodium Day on Wednesday, and I went and watched it in lou of regular work. It was a very interesting film commenting on the school system in South Africa and how it prioritizes high income students over low income students, and what differences that creates in the youth. In the evening I took a short rainy walk above the Rhodes Memorial.

Thursday through Saturday was a flurry of hiking and moving. I went up Skeleton Gorge early on Thursday with Julius (Germany), Hannah (Michigan), and Simona (The Netherlands) and was amazed by how quickly we summited Table Mountain and the views from the top. We meandered along the tabletop for a while before descending down to Constantia for lunch. It was my friend Cara’s last day in Cape Town on Thursday as well, so I went to her favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant with her, Chelsea, and Andi. It’s a place called YARD that is home to three different menus for the same restaurant (Mucky Mary’s for breakfast, Bitch’s Tit for lunch, and Dog’s Bollocks for dinner) as well as a coffee shop, and a biker bar. While we were there it was Dog’s Bollocks, offering plate sized burgers and wings.

Friday morning I got up early and moved all my things into my new house before the two and a half hour drive to Cederburg. I made it to Gecko Creek Lodge in time to swim and relax in the sun with the crew before we all cooked dinner and went on a walking tour of the property to check out cave paintings and rock formations. Our guide brought his drum and played as we climbed up the rocks to watch the sunset.

Saturday we spent the whole day in Cederburg. After waking up and cooking at the lodge we walked the windy and poorly marked trails that wound up and down the sandy hills until we found Elephant Rock about an hour and a half down the trail. Of course we climbed the rock and took pictures for a while then walked back to camp. In the afternoon we drove an hour deeper into the Cederburgs to reach the Cederburg Winery – the highest altitude winery in South Africa. The road was rough and steep, forcing my yellow cheapie to chug along at less than 20km/hr, but luckily I came out unscathed. Cat’s car, on the other hand, hit a nail and popped a tire. We made it in time for a tasting and a tire change then buzzed off to the Stadsaal caves.

Stadsaal Caves is a must see if you have time in South Africa. It reminds me a ton of Arches, Zion, and Bryce Canyon national parks. It’s an expansive area of badlands, caves, rock formations, and dunes that you could spend a lifetime exploring. It’s home to ancient cave paintings from some of the earliest known people in history and it’s actually very easy to navigate and climb around the rocks. Everywhere you look when you stand in Stadsaal is a brand new and unbelievable sight, from massive vistas of rocky and rugged landscapes to tight winding cave corridors. We stayed as long as we could, but as the sun began to set we had to drive back down to our camp. As we drove, a massive thunderhead rolled in backlit by the sunset. Everyone but the drivers were hanging out the windows in the rain hooting as lighting struck the mountains, overcast by the puffy red-orange clouds.

– Jackson Crawford,