In Japan there are many popular places that the Japanese flock to during the cold snowy months, namely, places like Kusatsu, Karuizawa, and Niseko. Surprisingly enough though, is that the Japanese have ignorantly squandered away a gold mine of a ski resort town ( Niseko ) by allowing Australian developers to move in and develop condos and property that they market very heavily in Australia as the Mecca of ski resort towns in world. As a result, thousands of foreign nationals flood into this quiet town annually painting the town red in revelry.
Of course the money generated is recycled back into the city -- back into foreign pockets in reality not the community, that is. The reason for mentioning this is because Niseko is blessed with some amazing hot springs and silky snow. Other places like Tomamu, another ski resort town in Hokkaido, has been attracting mainly Japanese. There are no onsen sources there, none, so I couldn’t include that in my list of must – see- places. It’s a real pity.
Though Karuizawa and Kusatsu boast some excellent onsen too, and also because they’re conveniently located near Tokyo, they’re overrun with celebusgeeks and their T.V. camera crews, Tokyoites and, so on. I stay away from these areas because they’ve become too touristy, much like Niseko has for Westerners. There are still few bastions of hope where a person can enjoy all of the great winter pastimes but without the masses. Oigami Onsen town is not popular, yet it has some of the best water in Japan and it snows heavily there. The skiing may not be world-class but you can still ski and enjoy yourself still without the long lines and without the hefty price tag.
Oigami, in Numata city is a very sparsely populated onsen town and has been an old timers favorites for centuries. Most of the hotels in this area use well water and serve it upon request. It’s my second time here. The first time I stayed here was at an excellent onsen hotel called Awashima which commands some pretty amazing views of the Tonemachi River covered in ice and snow. It’s a ghost town still. Nothing and nobody is here, just the great onsen(s) and charming little foot baths.
I wasn’t about to get into this. Just thought it was nice to be able to literally walk out of my room and see this foot bath there near the main entrance
Continuing my walk I came to a familiar spot I once discovered the first time I visited Oigami three years ago.
The much needed exercise I was getting coupled with the morning breeze was invigorating. I continued my walk and came across dozens of old wooden houses.
I saw lots of corn hanging from windows and sheds.
And these icicles caught my eye. I love icicles, especially when they are not pointing at me. Below is a bell hanging from some sort of bamboo.
These were so pleasant on my ears when they were ringing. Snowy breeze was a bit gentle and very nippy.
And then this Oigami god was neat.
Then just behind it I found a small Shinto shrine. I love shrines. There is just something so natural and pure about them. Some may argue that modern Shinto is monotheistic whereas most main stream views see Shinto as having many gods(kami) or polytheistic. This argument stems from the Emperor of Japan as he was the living god of the Japanese race up until 1945, now he’s merely a symbol of the State. I washed my hands in this ice cold water before going up to offer up a prayer.
The mirror is the symbol of Amaterasu the god of Shinto.
"The mirror hides nothing. It shines without a selfish mind. Everything good and bad, right and wrong, is reflected without fail. The mirror is the source of honesty because it has the virtue of responding to the shape of object. It points out the fairness and impartiality of the divine will." —Jinno Shotoki
For more information on Shinto, go to www.uri.org/Shinto_Portrait.html.
And then the guardian dogs covered in snow.
Shishi lion dogs.
To be continued…