visit takaragawa onsen hot spa
Minakami Travel Blog› entry 5 of 34 › view all entries
March 12th, 2008 – by: portia
We didn't have very good internet connection last night or this morning, so I wasn't able to upload my photos. We had a similar breakfast from the bakery, packed and left for the train station. The loop line took us to Tokyo station, and since we scouted yesterday, we were able to find our connecting bullet train (Shinkansen) which would take us to Takasaki, it was less than 1 hour ride. The green reserved car we had had roomy seats, although if you had anything larger than a carryon suitcase it would have been hard to fit in the space overhead.
Outside Minakami station (which was a pretty tiny station), we found the bus depot, numbered spots marking the routes of the buses. We had a few minutes, so I walked down the street and bought a boxx of choco cake for snacks. They had a sample box showing what you would get, and you may have seen all those plastic sample foods at Japanese restaurants, so in the random bakery store, they also had samples so you can see what you will be getting. Of course we couldn't taste it before buying. But now many choco cakes later, I must say it was awfully tasty! Basically bite-sized chocolate cakes with a small filling of melted chocolate.
The bus left the train station and headed into the mountains. Ah, I forgot to say that there was snow on the way into Minakami, and snow on the ground in Minakami, and all the way up. Not very high, Minakami was at 491 m, and we went up perhaps to 2000 feet, We passed a couple of ski and snowboard resorts on the way, a dam with iced surface and along the river which fed into the dam. All along the drive it was very scenic, with snow and leafless trees going up the steep slopes. We arrived at another bus station where the driver told us was our stop, and we saw a shuttle from the onsen waiting. So we got to the Osenkaku guest house/hotel, at the entrance, we left our normal shoes, and changed into sandals to wear inside the hotel.
First you had to shower and clean yourselves, using either private bath in the room or the public bath. Watch out for the men vs women sign on the curtain leading to the showers. The public baths in the hotel had indoor hot spring too, so it was real steamy inside. A row of shower stations were against the wall, where shower gel, shampoo and conditioners were provided along with special carbon or charcoal soaps which seemed to be a specialty of the hot springs. After cleaning up, we put our tobes back on and went out to the open air hot springs. First we had to change to outdoor sandals before going out, over a bridge, along a path by the river. Many shrines and statues of buddhist deities were found along the way.
Dinner was quite an experience too. We were served dinner in our room. Sitting on the tatami and low chairs, a table is set in front of each of us, and a lot of various foods were provided. The waitress had to give instructions on which was what and how to eat them, dip in this sauce or that one. How to turn our fish on a stick on the small bbq stove. It was all very tasty and fun. We even had “bear soup” which was supposed to be a specialty of the area. Hmm, well, I didn't expect that, but ate my piece of bear meat, which was a different color dark meat than beef or pork and tasted a bit gamy.
After a rest to digest dinner, we set out for the hot springs for another soak. You warm up enough that when you come back from the hot springs, the single cotton robe was plenty in the night air. With the snow on the ground, it was a little strange to not be wearing a big jacket but we didn't need it.
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