I look out and touch the sky, I can feel around with my senses the allure of winter burning at the tips of my fingers. I know it is beautiful, but to feel it is quite different. Like you're staring at a glass christmas ball with the little figurines and artificial snow inside. Winters are my favorite time of year and I am back to doing what I do best; admiring the beauty of Japan.
From that ice cold wind whipped ride down that mountain top down, to that bubbling hot steamy bath, I can finally thaw my fingers and bones out, each and every bone. I am home in the womb of my desire.
I was barely able to peel away the thick clothing and wrestle off that beast of a jacket. I peeled away those water soaked socks and thermal underwear. Knees and legs still frozen to the bone. I am home in the womb of my desire. Born alone and standing on your own.
You may or may not have had a chance to see the rugged backbone of Minakami, nor the beauty scattered about the northwestern corner of the Kanto region. And you may have never heard of little off the beaten track stations like JR Yubiso underground tunnel station. Maybe time is money for you. I was determined to ride the local line all the way up from Yokohama to Niigata, a seven hour journey through cities, canyons, ravines, and tundra and all via the local lines.
While some say the means you use to get to your destination is not important, and that getting there as soon as possible is the best way to get the most out of your vacation, I say, no. I totally disagree. How you get to your destination is as much a part of your vacation as being at your destination. I had promised myself years ago that I would attempt this epic 7 hour journey across some of Japan's most pristine backcountry. Express trains can reach this area in 2 hours and 30 minutes. Welcome to the real Japan.
Be forewarned, trains this far up north during winter often get canceled due to snowstorms. JR Joestsu is pretty good with track maintenance during the icy blistering cold winters, so lines are rarely cancelled.
So if you are planning to really get a taste of the rural life, and want to get away from express trains and jet planes, and are looking for something unique, slow paced, and completely different, travel local and enjoy a side of Japan most people miss all together.
It's about thawing out those bones and enjoying winter's kiss over a nice bottle of Japanese sake.