It was been a bit since I have written a post. Honestly partly laziness with a dash of using my iPhone too much. That being said I just returned from a whirlwind trip up north to Yakushi Onsen (Hot Springs) in Gunma Prefecture.
We hoped aboard an express JR train from Ueno station heading north. It wasn’t soon after leaving the Tokyo Terminal that it began to rain. Speeding away from the industrial center and the endless stretches of concrete the rain quickly turned to sleet and before I knew it it was snowing.
Being a true Miamian, I am always amazed at snow. This freezing cold white substance that falls from the skies. No matter how many scientific explanations I read about the formation of snow, it still seems like magic to me. So, there I was, dashing on this speeding train watching the snow come down, and down.
We excited at Nakanojo station and met by our hotel’s staff that shuttled us 45 minutes up into the Gunma mountains. As we gained elevation, more and more of the magical white stuff stretched out across the valleys. By the time we reached the hotel the wet snow had before dry and was whipping about our faces.
The hotel was an old samurai’s home that had been converted to a hotel with most of the outer buildings housing small collections of antiques. My wife grabbed a blue umbrella to keep off the snow, as I opted to let the show accumulate on my hood.
Japan is famous for there hospitality and Hatago hotel was no exception. They helped us and served a warm glass of shitake mushroom tea as we answered a barrage of questions about all of our dinning and hotel options.
I walked around for a bit and found a small temple not far away. By now the snow has ceased falling but the wind was whipping the dry snow across the blanketed farms. It was beautiful to be making the first tracks across the snow.
It was time to head back and soak away some of those aches and pains. I get to the bath, and suddenly I couldn’t read the characters for men and women’s bath. They weren’t the usual ones. One noren was blue, the other was red. I kind of assumed that red is close to pink so probably for the women, but I didn’t want to risk being responsible for having an elderly Japanese woman freak out at having a tall bearded foreigner pop his head in. Proper hot spring etiquette is essential for not being a fear inducing traveler.
I found some staff and and confirmed that the blue side was for me. I kept repeating the mantra “blue” to myself as I slowly drew back the door and peaked inside. I was greeted by absolutely no one. I had the place to myself.
I found a lucky 100 yen in the locker disrobed and put the key around my wrist. Properly washed before entering the bath. I poured a few wooden buckets of water over my shoulder as an attempt to adjust to the freezing air and the boiling bath. I truly had forgotten just how scalding the water could be. Probably somewhere in the range of around 45C (113F). Feet in first, then legs, up to my torso and then finally my shoulders. Not really sure how long this took, but by the time I left the bath I am postive that the water became a bit of a Jacob broth after I was fully able to submerge myself.
The night progressed nicely as the temps dipped into the teens (about -8C). We sampled a never ending dinner of local goodies and some of sake. I am not a big eater and I was overwhelmed by all the delicacies.
It was a crispy cold short adventure. We city dwellers forget that there is so much beauty out there once we make the jump out of the cities. Tokyo just happens to be so huge that it takes a while to get out. I was thrilled to see some snow, and snap the shutter a few times. I need to break out of Tokyo and hit the hills.