Sunday, May 11, 2014

Brompton Gathering in Palace #14

Today I went to a Brompton gathering held near Tokyo Station. There were 115 Bromptons in lines.

The gathering called "Brompton Palace" is held bi-monthly, 10:30 am on the second Sunday of January, March, May, July, September, and November at the edge of the Imperial Palace Garden. If you have a chance to visit Tokyo, come and join us!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Brompton goes to Nikko Onsen Temple

I am sure that you know Nikko and Tosho-gu Shrine which was built by Shogun family more than 400 years ago.

But do you know there is Onsenji, a Buddhist temple with a secluded, religious, and historic hot spring in Nikko Yumoto Onsen?

[Transportation examples]
Tobu Railway (RAPID): Asakusa Station dept. 06:20 → Tobu Nikko Station arr. 08:25
Bus: Tobu Nikko 08:40 → Yumoto Onsen 10:05
Tobu Railway (RAPID): Asakusa Station dept. 08:10 → Tobu Nikko Station arr. 10:19
Bus: Tobu Nikko 10:40 → Yumoto Onsen 12:05
All nikko pass 4,520 yen (Train & Bus)

Brompton and I arraived at Tobu Nikko Stattion where was the nearest station to Nikko Tosho-gu, a famous Shito shrine complex which was registered as a World Heritage site in December 1999.

Today I am going to the secret hot spring before visiting that shrine complex. An elevation of the Station is 543 meters. The elevation of Yumoto Onsen, today's destination, is 1472 meters. You had better take bus rather than by Brompton. Yumoto Onsen is connected with central Nikko by Tobu bus. Buses leave from Tobu Nikko Station and are bound for Yumoto Onsen. There are one or two buses per hour.


As it is mid May, mountains of Oku Nikko are yet covered with snow. Nikko Yumoto Onsen is still in Winter and waits for Spring.

From Yunohira Marsh, where fountainheads of Yumoto Onsen are located, you will see Onsen-ji, Hot Spring Temple. The hot water must be very fresh!

Each fountainhead is covered by a wooden roof. The yield of the fountain is enormous enough to supply not only to hotels of the vicinity but also to distant places all around the Nikko area.

Let's go to the temple.

Onsen-ji Temple was established in 788 by Saint Shodo who was from Shimotsuke region.

When I rang a bell, a young bald kid appreared to open the gate. I thought that he must be an apprentice of the temple but I found that he was just a grandchild of the chief priest of this Buddhist temple. The kid and the wife of the priest escourted me to the bath. Let's be soaked in a hot spring!

See this color and strong smell of sulphur! Wonderful!

When I finished bathing, I was treated with rice crackers and Japanese tea. Just for reference, you need to pay "dedicatory rest" instead of charge or fee. It is because a temple is in difinition "religious corporations" in terms of Japanese tax law.

It was good hot spring and I enjoyed. I am thankful to the god (Buddha?) and nature.

After this Onsen experience, you go back to Tobu Nikko station to visit Tosho-gu, the famous shrine complex of world helitage!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ubayu Hot Spring - An ultimate onsen

Are you interested in one of the most secluded hot springs in Japan? Brompton and I went to one, Ubayu Hot Spring, today for a day trip.

Ubayu is a hot spring located in 250 km north of Tokyo. It is hidden by a deep mountain valley with an elevation of 1,250 meters. Ubayu was found 500 years ago by Lord Endo who started Masugata-ya, an only Onsen lodge there. Masugata-ya has been succeeded by Lord Endo's offsprings for seventeen generations since then.

The open-air bath is very out-of-the-way hot spring surrounded by rough mountain surface.

Shinkansen (super express "TSUBASA") Tokyo Station Lv. 6:12 Fukushima Station Ar. 7:44
Local rail (Ou line) Fukushima Station Lv. 8:05 Toge Ar. 8:35

[Brompton to ride]
Toge Station → Ubayu Onsen Masugata-ya Lodge → Toge Station
Distance 17.1 km
Maximum difference of an elevation 611m
Average inclination: total 0% ascent 10.3% descent 9.7%
Gained elevation ascent 754m descent 753m

I started a ride from JR Toge Station, an unmanned station with a huge snow canopy in the middle of an isolated mountain. Ubayu was just 8 km away from the station but we needed to conquer amazing elevation of more than 600 meters to get to that secret hot spring in Shangri-la.

Brompton and I climbed a series of steep inclines. The inclinations were getting steeper and steeper. The speed slowed down to almost 3 to 4 km per hour, which was almost a speed of walk.
The inclination reached 17%! Visually like this.
I found that 17% was not final. See, next slope was 22%! But we still needed to go for another 2 km from here. Already tired!
I continued to pedal Brompton, almost fainted. Finally I reached the pass and looking over Ubayu Onsen at the end of this deep valley. That is Masugata-ya Lodge and its hot springs!
I used up all the energy to climb up the last slope to the lodge.
Finally arrived. After payment, I hurried to the hot spring.
This is "Yamauba no yu" open air bath, the mountain witch bath.

A wonderful location, pleasant temperature, and nice flegrance impressed me a lot. The hot spring came out directly from the volcano just over there. It attracted me with this natural environment and strong sulfurous odour.

When I looked up, such wild scenary was awaiting.
Nobody cannot help but being filled with palpitations in the situation.
You can expose yourself into such wild but priceless experience if you accompany Brompton to your Japan trip. I recommend you to achieve this ultimate onsen experience by combination of Shinkansen and Brompton as I did. I hope that your schedule allows you to do so in Japan.

Please make sure that Ubayu Hot Spring is only open from May to October due to severe climates of the high mountain in the north east region. You can well understand when you see the above photo taken last May.