Posts Tagged ‘Onsen’

Special ride in Nagano

May 26, 2017

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We, staffs of Tokyo Great Cycling Tour traveled to Karuizawa, Nagano during Golden Week holiday in this year as has happened in the past.

This year, we have decided to head to Kirizumi Onsen which is located in the deep mountain in Gunma prefecture. karuizawa map

The first 2 hours were rather easy ride with lots of fun. With decent distance and angle of hill climbing, we enjoyed watching cherry blossoms in the mountain. Here is about 1200 meters high from the sea level, so flowers have just started blooming. We were trying to cycle in the same pace as we were afraid of meeting bears who might have just come out from their hibernation. Yes, there are many bears in this mountain! Actually the area is named Kuma no Daira and Kuma means bear in Japanese.

 

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Two hours later we arrived at a kind of dead end but we found the sign pointing the very steep cliff and narrow road to Kirizumi Onsen.

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We put our bikes on our shoulders and climbing up this mountain wall standing in front of us. There are not many pictures we could take as the road was so hard and we didn’t have enough remaining power to do so… Some parts of the road were very slippery and one side of the slope face is all the way down to the bottom of the valley…!

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After another one hour of cycling (well, actually we were pushing our bike most of the parts), we finally arrived Kirizumi Onsen. It was truly a hidden gem, very quiet even in Golden Week and wonderful location Onsen in the serene hush. Onsen water contains lots of carbonic acid so when you soak in the bath you can see your hands and legs would be wrapped lots of fine bubbles. We had late lunch along a fresh stream.

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The time spending in the heaven can last only a short time… We need to cycle back to Karuizawa. We cycle down from Kirizumi Onsen which locates 1200 meters elevation to 400 meters (fun and easy!)  and then hill climb again to Karuizawa which also is 1200 meters! What the hell !!!

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In total, we are very much enjoying a day between the heaven and the hell. If you are interested in this route, we can tell you more details, or you can join us next year golden week 🙂

Travel deep into the rural Japan – Akita

January 18, 2017

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Tourism Agency announced yesterday that the total number of visitors to Japan increased by 21.8% from the previous year. More than 24 million tourists visited Japan last year but the same number in 2006 was just about 7 million, so this is really a big jump!

However, still tourists are visiting only specific areas such as Tokyo, (and around),  Osaka (and around), Hokkaido or Fukuoka. (See the above map. Red, orange or yellow are places tourist paid visits.)

Last weekend I traveled to Akita prefecture for skiing and hot spring (and of course nice food and Sake!!) with my husband and an Irish friend. My another old friend is now living in Akita for his work and he will soon move back to Tokyo, so I wanted to visit there while he was there.

Enjoying  a couple of beers and Sakes at the comfortable Shinkansen seats I fell a sleep and next time when I awake and looked outside the window, it was already completely different world. Snowing heavily and no more city lights. Shinkansen finally arrived at Tazawako station, three of us and two other unacquainted people stepped on the platform covered with 10-15 cm fresh snow. It was about 3 hour pleasant Shinkansen trip.

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We stayed at Kokumin Kyukamura hotel chain, and they have 37 hotels located in various national parks in Japan. This hotel chain is originally government owned so the price is relatively reasonable. (Kokumin Kyukamura website)  The room is a normal, traditional tatami room so we slept on Futon mattress wearing Yukata, Japanese traditional pajamas. We re-started drink Sake…..Akita has lots…..of nice Sakes!

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These are the selection made by my friend, Kosuke! The middle one is “ゆきの美人” which means “ゆきYuki, 美人Beauty” and Yuki is my name, well done, Kosuke 🙂

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The next day was started with Asa-Buro, the first Onsen of the day. For this way, I can reset myself from the previous nights drinking and be ready for skiing! As the weather forecast already had told, the snow continued for a whole day but not windy and snow was not that heavy so the condition was just fabulous for enjoying skiing in deep powder snow.This was my first time to ski in Akita, and to tell you the truth I didn’t expect too much about the snow condition in Akita, I thought it was wet snow but luckily I was wrong.

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Kosuke took a very good picture of mine with his Nikon D5. Immediately  I changed my Facebook profile picture to this one!

We skied until the chair lifts stopped their service at 4 pm. And drove back to the hotel. Soaked into Onsen (my second one on this day) to relax my sore muscle. The hotel is located well-known Onsen resort called Nyuto Onsen, actually Nyuto means a nipple, I know it is a very strange name… It is named after the mountain nearby and this mountain’s shape is similar to women’s breast, so that’s why. And also the color of this Onsen water is white, cloudy color like milk. I like sulfur smell very much and Nyuto Onsen is sulfur bath.I soaked Onsen one more time after dinner and Sake just before going to bed  (or actually Futon!).

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Next day was wonderful weather, we could looked down the lake Tazawa from the mountain. Amazingly there was no cue for lifts or restaurants, this ski resort has 13 runs some of them were well groomed and some are natural and lots of powder snow. Some are steep but mostly moderate. We skied until lunch time and then packed our gears to send them back to Tokyo by Takkyubin. I always envy when I talk with my bike tour guests who travel to Japan for skiing from Australia, New Zealand or even from Europe, as they have a few weeks holiday but my schedule is so tight, 1.5 days skiing and had to go home… Before taking Shinkansen back to Tokyo, we drove to Tsurunoyu Onsen, which is the most famous, popular and the oldest Onsen in this area. I have read many articles about Tsurunoyu and seen lots of nice pictures. We had originally tried to book this Ryokan (Inn) but was fully booked and we could not stay here this time. However you can try as visitors if you go there by 3 pm, and which we did this time. Even though I had heard about this place already but the actual impression was far above the expectation. The atmosphere, scenery, Onsen water, everything was just lovely. Simple and beautiful. I liked this place very much!

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We took same way back to Tokyo, by Shinkansen. Although it is just 2.5 days short visit, I fully enjoyed the weekend retreat, I will definitely come back!

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My Irish friend was one of very few Western guests everywhere, at hotel, ski mountain or Onsen. The map above, the data can tell this fact. If you have JR pass, just jump into Akita Shinkansen and get off at Tazawako station. You need to reserve hotel / Ryokan and reserve the pick-up bus from Shinkansen station. Please enjoy this very local experience in Akita.

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Tazawako Ski resort   website

Tsurunoyu Onsen website

 

 

There is a happy hell in Japan !

March 12, 2015

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Hi there. I am Masa.

I visited snow monkey park in new year holiday with my family.

We saw many monkeys soaking in the natural hot spring.That was very interesting.

The official name of Snow monkey park is Jigokudani- Yaen-koen (地獄谷野猿公園) which literary means Hell valley wild monkey park.

In Japan hot spring where we can see the steam of geothermal heat comes out from the ground is often called as Jigoku (hell). It is a hell but like the Paradise!

Jigokudani Yaen Koen is the only place we can see wild monkeys soaking in the bath.

The way monkeys enjoying the bath is completely same as human being taking bath.

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There are many monkeys in the park.They all are wild monkeys living in mountains. Actually they are coming down to the park every morning to enjoy hot spring and food and they go back home every evening.

Though they are originally just called Saru (monkey) in Japan, overseas tourists who saw monkey soaking in the hot spring surrounded by much snow found interesting and started to call them Snow monkey and now they become world famous. Lots of tourists from all over the world come to see them.

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The park is located in Nagano prefecture north-west of Tokyo, where is mountainous area with deep snow in winter and also good Onsens. Shiga Kogen ski resort is reachable in 30 min. by car.

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Did  you know in Japan even capybaras (or capibaras) are also big fans of Onsen? They are originally from southern America. Maybe the winter in Japan is too cold so that they come to fall in love with Onsen ! You can see them at Izu Cactus park, Saitama children’s zoo and some other zoos in Japan.

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We love cycling! We also love skiing!!

January 25, 2010

Photo Yukiko @ Manza Onsen Ski Area

We are operating the bike tour also in winter season. Actually as we have told many times, cycling on a sky clear, sunny and crispy day in winter is very comfortable. All of TGCT staff love cycling in winter.

However, at the same time, all of us also love skiing in winter, so sometime we are really fluctuating  between cycling and skiing, especially after hearing new snow report at the mountain side!

Last weekend, luckily (or unluckily for our business 🙂 ) we had no tour booking, so all of TGCT staff went together to Manza Onsen in Gunma prefecture as the staff trip.

Same as other ski area in Japan, the size of ski area and length of ski slope are much smaller/shorter than those in Europe or North America, but the best thing for Japanese ski place is Onsen (hot spring) after skiing.

The Onsen warter at Manza is very strong sulfur bath, we could really have a relaxing time to relieve the day’s fatigue.  While soaking the Onsen, we all have developed a new appreciation to living in Japan and this gift from the land – Onsen!!

If you are considering to visit Japan for skiing, we can probably give you some advices or tips about skiing in Japan. And we still suggest you that it is good idea to do bike tour before or after your skiing trip to mountain side! But sorry in advance, if all of us are out of Tokyo for skiing trip 🙂

   Photo  Yukiko @Manza Onsen  : Can you see the hot spring gas? It really smells sulfur!

This time we stayed at…  Prince Hotel Manza  website

Masa’s Onsen (Hot Spring) Short Story Vol.2

October 21, 2009

紅葉の燕温泉 2009.10It situated in the northwestern part of Tokyo, and it takes about three hours by car or by Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo, Tsubame Onsen (Hot Spring) in Myoko highland of Niigata prefecture is now at the height of the fall foliage. There are eight small Onsen Ryokans (Japanese inns with hot spring) scattered on the either side of several tens of meters steep hill on the mountainsides of 1,100 meters high.

    Tsubame  Onsen is a famous place as a colony of martin, and “Tsubame” is a martin (a kind of swallow) in Japanese. When I were there, I saw nests of  martins lined along the eaves. As martins has already grown and left the nests, all of the nests were empty at that time.

    The hot spring was sulfur bath with milky white colour. At the edge of the town (in the middle of above photo) there is free of charge outdoor hot spring along the mountain stream.  It was full of visitors who came here to enjoy the colourful autumn leaves.

      Yes, now is the best time for the autumn leaves. The outdoor hot spring will be closed during winter.

    MASA

Masa’s Onsen (Hot Spring) Short Story Vol.1

September 15, 2009

法師温泉I Recently visited  Houshi Onsen in Gunma Prefecture, two hours away from  central Tokyo by car. This was the view I enjoyed from my room, pictureque main building of this Onsen Ryokan and beyond the river is the roof of the new annex ward. Shortly after breakfast in my room, it seemed that I had happily fallen back to sleep.

I have known the father and the son who are the owners of this Onsen Ryokan for long time, and we had a pleasant time over quite a bit of nice Sake the  night before. That’s why I remembered only half of what we had talked about, even though we had  a lot of  “fruitful” discussions. Too bad I can’t  share this with you here…

Cheers, that’s all for now.

Masa