There are as many stars in the skies as the Kansai region can muster and a friend and I walked 45 minutes to the local onsen to join her boyfriend and one of his friends for dinner and a soak in the hot baths. I've never been on such a crowded night, it being a Saturday, and the pleasure of sharing the space with so many people, so many generations of women with no two bodies alike, became as much a part of the comfort as resting in the hot mineral waters. There is an instant of absurdity stepping in to the locker room fully clothed, followed by a slight hesitation to join the skin surrounding, until everyone becomes the same and more natural than imaginable. It's a strange thing for Americans to believe it, I think; that nakedness can become such a common and natural thing so quickly; that one can feel so natural in their own body and being surrounded by others. But it is so. And there are few things as relaxing as onsen, the hot steam rising off the pools of water into the cold night air.
Afterwards we joined her boyfriend and his friend, and they had a beer while we had green tea soft serve–another superlative pleasure of Japan, especially after a hot soak in the onsen. His friend is an English professor at Osaka University and currently working on a dissertation in English Literature through a university in America. It was fun to meet another foreigner from outside the pool of friends I have at HPAC. Life felt normal for an hour; and I became aware of an expat community that seems to have a strong core in Osaka, other people who have been able to establish a home in Japan for much longer than I. I'm not sure that my life's circumstances allow enough time to frequently travel into Osaka to spend more time with them, but there is something nice about knowing that they are there. Maybe one day or a few more times, we'll connect again and the world will be a little bigger than it feels.