Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Takaragawa Osenkaku, an authentic hot spring

Today Brompton and I went to Takaragawa Onsen for a day trip.

Takaragawa Onsen is about 180km north from the central Tokyo. The hot spring is very well-known especially amongst foreign travellers for a huge open-air mixed bathing hot spring.

Takaragawa means a treasure river. Takaragawa Onsen is located along several hundred meters of Takaragawa's riverbank. The alkaline water is said not only to be good for skins but also for curing fatigue and digestive troubles. Because of its massive yield of hot spring water coming up from hot spring wells, all of the huge open-air baths are always filled up with fresh hot spring water.
(photo by Takaragawa Onsen)

Brompton and I got off JR train at Minakami station in the morning and took a Kanetsu Kotsu bus bound for Takaragawa Onsen (宝川温泉).

There were a dozen of foreign travellers in the bus. Some of them were from South Africa and others were from Thailand and other countries. We welcome all of you to Japan and Takaragawa Onsen!

It takes about 40 minutes to get to Takaragawa Onsen.

Upon arrival, an old man at the Takaragawa Onsen reception gave necessary instructions and tips of Japanese Onsen to foreign travellers in fluent English.

Let's go to the largest open-air bath in Japan.

The view from this bridge is...

This picturesque snow-covered riverside with bath huts scattered.

There are a lot of antiques with oriental flavor and religious fittings all along the corridor leading to the open-air baths.

Beyond the bridge there is famous Kodakara bath.

Devil King of the hell welcomes you.

Kodakara bath is spacious. Approximately 200 tatami or 333 square meters in its size. It is the largest in Takaraga Onsen hot spring. Kodakara means the treasure that is children. It is said that people who dip in Kodakara bath will be blessed with good children.

Let' go to Maka bath in the other side of the Takaragawa river.

It is also an open-air hot spring with capacity of 120 tatami or 200 square meters. It is known to be used in many movies, TV programs, magazines and other media in recent years.

Abundant hot spring water is poured into the 200 square meter bath tub. This hot spring a bit smells sulfur.

Hannya bath is located in the downstream of the river with Maka bath change room in between, providing cozy and elegant atmosphere. Children are safe to enter as the half of the bath is shallow.

However it was too cold to dip myself into Hannya bath today, a cold winter day, because it is too shallow to keep temprature enough at a comfortable level.

Other than Kodakara bath, Maka bath and Hannya bath, there is Maya bath which is for female only. It is 166 square meters in its size.

I believe that winter is the best season for Takaragawa onsen because it recovers its original silence and solemness in the wild nature at the area of upstream Tone river. Snow covered mountains, cold water river flows and bare trees in winter also attract us. Why don't you visit Takaragawa Onsen for a day trip when you happen to stay in Tokyo during winter season.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Let's go to Jigokudani Onsen

Brompton and I went to Jigokudani Onsen to share a hot spring bath tub with snow monkeys. Combination of Shinkansen and Brompton enables you to make a day trip from Tokyo.

Shinkansen (super express) Tokyo Station Lv. 7:24 Nagano Station Ar. 8:48
Nagano Railway (express train "SNOW MONKEY") Nagano Station Lv. 9:08 Yudanaka Station Ar. 9:53

[Brompton to ride]
Yudanaka Station→Jigokudani Korakukan Lodge (hot spring) → Yudanaka Station
Distance: 10.4 km (round trip)
Maximum difference of an elevation: 227m
Average inclination: total -0.1% ascent 5.4% descent 5.7%
Gained elevation: ascent 271m descent 264m

You start here, Yudanaka Station, to ride Brompton.

Another 2.2 km.

Finally you reach Jigokudani Onsen "Korakukan."
Korakukan is known as the first hot spring where monkeys bathed.

After reception, I hurried to the bath hut.

This is an inhouse bath tub.

Comfortable! But I needed to go for an outside bath. When I went out,

There was an old guy there. He looked back at me.

HEY YO, whatcha gonna do? A hot spring is filling up. Still need to wait a while but come.

After a while, the guy was gone.

I was thirsty. Let's drink a bottle of water.

It was really a wild experience with a wild monkey.

Related article:
Brompton to meet Snow Monkeys (Jigokudani Onsen)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Kanda Yabu Soba

Yes, let's go to Kanda Yabu, a gem of a traditional Soba parlar established in Meiji era.

It is said that a first Yabu Soba started during early Edo years. In the mid Edo era, there were a dozen of Soba parlers with the name "Yabu Soma" all around Edo, an old name of Tokyo.

Amongst all, Tsutaya (Ivy) Yabu Soba in Dango Zaka was the most renowned and prospered. One of the branches of Tsutaya was exactly in this location. Hotta Shichibei, an ancester of current owner family, was allowed to own it in 1880. In the mid Meiji era, the original "Tsutaya" faced a financial trouble and this parler succeeded "Yabu Soba" brand as a flag ship shop.

Kanda Yabu was unfortunately caught in a fire a year ago and closed for long time. I was very pleased to hear that the parler reopened just a week ago and immediately visited this weekend. I miss the previous structure last for more than 100 years but new premises is still traditional enough with good atmosphere. I hope it continues to operate forever as a benchmark of Soba restaurants in Tokyo.

Kanda Yabu Soba
2-10 Kanda-Awajichō Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Telephone +81 3251 0287

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Shimanami, a heavenly road over the sea

If you want to go to the best road for cycling, I recommend you to go to SHIMANAMI KAIDO. The road has a cycling lane all the way from Onomichi to Imabari of about 70km. Each wonderful bridge has a bikeway.

You can meet wonderful scenary you've never seen on the road.

Route: Sunrise Itoyama (hotel)→ Oshima Island (via Miyakubo path)→ Hakata Island → Omishima Island → Ikuchijima Island→ Innoshima Island→ Ikuchijima Island → Omisihma Island Bus Stop
Distance: 84km
Maximum difference of an elevation: 143m
Average % of inclination: total-0.1% ascent3% descent2.9%
Gained elevation: ascent408m descent478m

Kurushima Strait Bridge(length 4105m)
The bridge connects Oshima Island and Shikoku.

Ship Builder in Oshima.

Observing Tomari Village in Oshima Island.

An arch of Omishima Bridge watching from Taura Pass at Oshima Island.

Hakata Bridge (length 325m)
Oshima Bridge (suspension bridge, length 840m)

Omishima Bridge (Arch Bridge, length 328m)

Koune Bridge connecting Ikuchijima and Koune Island. Length 205m.

Tatara Bridge (Cable-stayed bridge, length 1,480m)
The longest cable-stayed bridge in Japan and the fifth in the world.

Ikuchi Bridge (Cable-stayed bridge, length 790m)
It is connecting Innoshima and Ikuchijima.