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Gosen: Southeastern Niigata

Sometimes I just don't know where my travels will take me.   For me, the soul of Japan will  always follow that saké scented trail because I know that down that path is great food and great onsen to be had, and that it will be there waiting for me.   The onsen will always be hot  and steamy;  the saké will always be cold and aromatic for me, along with an exquisite meal, or two, for me.   Not every path or every doorway has to look enticing to go through, though.    I know the train station didn't, and neither did any of the buildings and houses,  save a few shrines and temples.    I do not go to the touristy spots.  I want to go to that inconvenient places.   That spot that's too far to even care about by city folks in Tokyo, especially in the dead of winter.

        But I assume that it's in these not so popular areas are where the true gems are hidden.

It's something about that empty tiny little station and the deafening silence haunting it.   No train staff, no hustle and bustle.  Just two empty cars.   Trains run through every hour on the hour and only have two carriages.    Sakihana Station.

Snow was too high.  Made it impossible for me to come any closer.   About waist deep, no kidding!   It snows like this well into March in these parts.   Southeastern Niigata to be exact.   A place that's considered a true cultural treasure by people who know Japan.    It could be the Jomon period artifacts, or the amazing peonies that grow when in season that cover this whole mountainous  region in spring.   It could be the legendary water Niigata is so very famous for, which reflects in its world-class saké that's produced here and sold all over the world.   It could be the annual world-class flower festivals which can easily rival any in the Western world.  Or those amazing fireworks shows held throughout the summer which are said to be the best in Japan!  I believe all of these things, and then some.    But I was there for the essentials.

Taxis in this area run about 390 yen for the first 750 meters, and then 660 yen for 1.5 kilometers onward.  Not too bad considering what I pay in Tokyo.  790 yen just to get in the taxi....  I walked most of the way to my hotel.   I saw this body of water and had to stop over.  This is the sight where the summer fireworks shows are held and from what the locals tell me, it's spectacular, and that  nothing can rival it in Japan.

The neat thing about choosing this hotel was because of the train tracks and the relative closeness to the nearest station.    In a previous post I selected onsen based off of the sommelier rating here.   This time around I wanted to focus mainly on a particular kind of scenery.   Trains And snow And onsen.   Yes.  I was able to enjoy sitting in a hot spring surrounded by snow clad trees and white all around while the local train sped by kicking up powdery snow with its headlights lit up.   NHK moment for sure.   And I wasn't able to snap that photo for a lot of technical reasons.    Here's another onsen located near the tracks.

The red bridge was what I had to cross to get to the entrance.    Often times, as a courtesy some hotels will write your name on a large placard outside.   It was nice seeing this.   They were expecting me.

I was greeted warmly and cordially.   The gentleman handed me slippers and showed me to the front desk to get checked-in.   After everything was settle he showed me to my room, where he  sat me down and prepared a hot cup of tea in my room.   He spoke to me with such warm conviviality in his somewhat fluent English.   I indulged him by continuing the conversation in English.    A rarity I might add.  I always try to keep the language consistent with what the locals speak.  Japanese.
After tea, I got changed into my evening wear; yukata.   Sat down by this window and drank down a bottle of Asahi, then changed over to sake.    The sake in the pic is called Kirinzan, unpasteurized.   It was wonderfully clean and smooth on the palate.    And then to the hot spa that I had privately reserved for myself for 30 minutes.

                   The video clip below is four minutes and it's me talking and entering the spa.

Once I finished bathing I returned to my room, drank more and waited for the knock on my door for dinner; it was being served in my room.     Dinner came.
Now this meal may look a little light, but it did do the trick.   I was able to stuff myself with this very local Niigata rice.   They gave me plenty of it and I was thoroughly satisfied.  I love Japanese white rice, especially from this region in Japan.   And then the sake was amazing.   I have trained myself to never bring junk food to onsen hotels.    The food they provide for you is healthy and just enough.  Never overdo it.   In the morning you'll feel a lot better before and after breakfast.   I entered the onsen four more times then I crashed.   I put away four small bottles of sake and several beers and was out like a light.   Was up bright and early the next day for an early morning bath, breakfast, and a nap.  Checked out  by 9:30 and back in Yokohama by 3pm the next day.

Mission accomplished.


  1. Such magical sights. :)

    I'm all for finding hidden gems away from the obvious tourists choice but of course, having non-existent Japanese language ability always managed to thwart the effort to break away from the beaten path.

    Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. Thanks for your post I will go oneday! I am sure, thanks!

  3. Thanks for your post I will go oneday! I am sure, thanks!


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