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Let the Onsening Begin!


Oigami Onsen

Oigami RoomRotemburo On Our Deck
Honestly, we came here by accident.  We had reservations, but we came here because we though this Onsen town was actually somewhere else.  After we booked the place, we figured out we were about 40km away from where we though this place was, but by then it was a bother to change and hey, why not?  We arrived shortly before sunset and this was our first Onsen on this trip so we were happy to stay and use the Hotel's amenities.


Helen And IIn Bath
We found out shortly after we asked where the bath was that we were the only guests in the hotel that night, so we basically had the run of the place.

Outdoor Bath


Tonight was our first Kaiseki meal.  Kaiseki meals are multi-course meals that highlight regional and seasonal food.  When you book a Ryokan, you generally get access to the baths, dinner and breakfast and the usual things you need (bed), yukata and disposable toothbrush.  Kaiseki meals are often close to art - more than a dozen small dishes where each dish highlights a taste (salty or sweet for instance), a texture (crunchy or smooth) or a regional specialty (local beef was common).  The meals are intricate and we often took out our cameras to document the amazing food that went by.

  Kaiseki Meal ServedEgg And Spinach In Basket

The next morning, we had breakfast, packed up and went to our next destiation - another Onsen, before going to our next hotel - you guessed it - an Onsen Ryokan.

On the drive over we saw the largest tourist trap I had seen for a while.  These things are pretty common in Japan.  There are a lot of bus tours in this country and those buses need some place to stop for people to use the washroom and buy snacks.  If you can add in an attraction (this place has a view of the valley (nothing to write home about) and a collection of antique music boxes) and bus parking, you have a profitable destination.

Japanese Tourist Trap

Heated Coffee From AMachine
Being far off tourist season, we were alone even though all the stores had staff.  We stopped for hot coffee - yet another Japanese innovation that hasn't (yet) made it to North America.  Vending machines will sell you a can of hot coffee.  In cold weather, that coffee is a great hand warmer and once it's about the right temperature, a nice drink.  Why aren't they in Canada yet!


Takaragawa Onsen

Shallow Pool
Takaragawa Onsen is one of my ideal Onsens.  It's in the mountains (no 7-11 next door), it's outdoor, it's mostly mixed (there is a women's bath) and the baths have history.   Women generally join men wrapped in towels so things remain decent.  You are next to the river and large banks of snow so you can really feel rustic. 

Takaragawa OnsenMain Pool At Takaragawa Onsen


The hotels here aren't well rated so we decided to make this a day trip.  Taking photos of people in Onsens is kind of a tricky thing.  First thing to realized - the Japanese are camera buffs at least as much as North Americans and there are plenty of camera happy locals.  If you arrive in the morning on a weekday you may find yourself alone in the baths.  Generally it's fine to take pictures.  If you are not alone, don't take pictures.

Mark And Helen In First PoolPool Across The River

After about a two hour soak. we were cooked so we headed to our next hotel.

Chojukan, Hoshi Onsen

Futons Layed Out
Big trip splurge number one.  Chojukan is an old Onsen - more than 100 years old - and while it has expanded several times (and has a better access road) it still has much of it's old world charm. 

Love That Kotatsu


Mark commented the food seemed like they went to a really good fish market and just bough the most expensive of everything.  That's pretty cool except we are high up in the mountains and ocean fish isn't exactly local.  We did get some freshwater fish, but the ocean food was a principal component.  I was particularly impressed with the baby zucchini in the tempura - we sometimes see baby sized veggies in our markets in Canada, but they are rare.

Baby TempuraDifferent FlavorsSashimi Plate

Main Bath At Chojukan
Beyond excellent food, the Ryokan is really known for it's baths.  There are now three baths and by most standards they are award winning.  The main bath is dived into a number of cells and you wash off just outside of the bath area.  There are no taps, shower heads or modern shampoos.  Of course for people look for a bit more modern convenience, there is another modern style bath (with the expected fixtures).  Finally, there is also a womens bath.  The main bath is mixed genders most of the day but it is women only from 8pm to 10pm.



View To Bath BuildingsCleaning TubsLooking Back Towards Change Rooms

Standing In Front Of Chojukan
We stayed at Chojukan for two nights and used it as our base of operations.  The plan for the day between the two nights was to do a guided snowshoeing trip in the mountains.  Amazingly we got rained out.  The tour company didn't have a rain cancellation policy because in all of their years of operating, they had never seen rain in February.  It was an unseasonably warm year.  Not to be stopped, we decided to visit another hot springs town!


Kusatsu Onsen

Kusatsu Onsen is a strange town in Japan - one of the few towns without a train station anywhere nearby.  We drove about an hour and half to get here, the last half an hour up to the top of a mountain.  Kusatsu Onsen is definitly an Onsen town - the middle of town is dominated by a natural hot spring feature spilling hot water onto the rocks.

Hot Spring Source In KusatsuHot Spring Waterfall

Hand And Foot SpaHot Water Filling Hand Bath
There are a few private (indoor) hot spring baths here and lots of small shops for tourists to lighten their wallets.  On the side of the hot spring grounds is a hand and foot spa.  Hot water first pours into an upper pool (hand bath) and then a lower pool (foot bath).  Given that it is pretty cold up here, it was nice to get a bit of a soak in before the rest of touring.

Helen And I In Foot Spa

The town has a hot springs park in the middle with a large public outdoor bath in a park setting.  This is a large bath (easily a hundred bathers are supported) and sitting in the hot water with the cold wind on your face and the sun lower over the trees, you really get a good relaxing soak.  Watching the steam rise over the hot water, I really wanted a camera, but of course that isn't appropriate for such a bath.  Funny enough, the outside walls of the bath aren't quite high enough so while you sit in the bath, you watch tourists explore the paths on the neighboring hill.  After my soak I went out a took a picture in.

Kusatsu Outdoor Bath

Kusatsu Onsen was along our route into Nagano Prefecture - our next destination.



Helen And I In Foot Spa
Person: Helen, John
Shallow Pool
Tags: hot spring, Japan, reflection
Helen And IIn Bath
Rotemburo On Our Deck
Altitude: 651m (2135 feet)
Location: Go To...
Pool Across The River
Tags: Japan, onsen, river
Baby Tempura
Tags: baby, food porn, Japan, produce
Love That Kotatsu
Person: Helen
Tags: Japan, place to stay
Kaiseki Meal Served
Person: Helen, John
Cleaning Tubs
Tags: bathing, hot spring, Japan
Mark And Helen In First Pool
Hand And Foot Spa
Takaragawa Onsen
Altitude: 666m (2185 feet)
Location: Go To...
Outdoor Bath
Hot Spring Waterfall
Japanese Tourist Trap
Altitude: 837m (2746 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Japan, panorama, vending machine
Standing In Front Of Chojukan
Person: Helen, John, Mark
Futons Layed Out
Tags: Japan, place to stay
Oigami Room
Sashimi Plate
Tags: food porn, Japan, sashimi
Kusatsu Outdoor Bath
Hot Water Filling Hand Bath
Looking Back Towards Change Rooms
Tags: architectural decoration, hot spring, Japan
Main Bath At Chojukan
Tags: hot spring, Japan
Egg And Spinach In Basket
Heated Coffee From AMachine
Person: Helen
Main Pool At Takaragawa Onsen
Tags: hot spring, Japan
Different Flavors
Tags: food porn, Japan
View To Bath Buildings
Tags: fog, hot spring, Japan
Hot Spring Source In Kusatsu
Altitude: 1154m (3786 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Japan(13), hot spring(6), food porn(3), place to stay(2), vending machine(1), panorama(1)
People: Helen(5), John(3), Mark(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > Trips out of the Country > A Fourth Trip to Japan > Gunma
From: John Harvey Photo > A Fourth Trip to Japan > Gunma

Merci pour ces photos et ces conseils, sur un beau site japonais!
philippe
Sunday, August 31st, 2014 at 05:01:40

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Last Modified Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 at 01:38:22 Edit
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