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Showing posts from September, 2013

Ojiya Katakai: The Road to Niigata

I had two days left to use my Seishin Juhachi Kippu ( Seishin 18 Ticket) for the summer.   This is a special discount ticket which allows you unlimited train travel on all local JR lines in Japan for five days.    This time decided to head back up to Niigata to a city called Ojiya, a town famous for making and using the largest  fireworks shells in Japan and delicious southern grown koshihikari rice and bullfighting!   The bulls here are more well-mannered than the bulls in Pomplona, Spain.      
On the way there, I stopped over in Ikaho to stretch my legs in a nice onsen.    From Yokohama to Gunma is over two and a half hours, so I needed to get the blood flowing again.    After finishing up there, I headed to Shibukawa Station to continue my journey.  I stopped over in Echigo Yuzawa to check-in to my hotel and drop  off my bags.    Wet my whistle with some delicious sake then headed back to the station to catch the 5pm train bound for Ojiya Station - 59 minutes.

This sake is called

Ikaho Onsen

The beauty of Ikaho Onsen is found in its timeless comforts.   Like in its  percolating natural steamy hot spring baths that bubble up from a brook, or through some prehistoric stone wedged in somewhere.   Trees and stones that've been there since forever, and is forever a part of the landscape.   Everything is still there, as I remember it.  
From JR Shibukawa Station you can take a local bus to Ikaho Onsen.  



Pole #3 and #4 are two buses that'll get you there.  But based on my own experience the best option would be to just take a taxi and save yourself time.   Just split the fare between two or more people at around 1500 yen each.   The first time I came here was by car and think that is still  the best way to travel anywhere in Gunma Prefecture.   

If you are looking for attractions, aside from the dairy farm and petting zoo , then I don't recommend Ikaho.  The  sort of people who come here are old timers and people like me who are really into natural hot spas and gre…

Saka Shrine: The Birthplace of Sake

Before Japan was poisoned by Western charms, legends used to abound of great Asian men who formed the intellectual upper-crust of societies all over the world.  Centuries ago, Dutch used to be the official foreign language of Business & Commerce in this country.  Japanese merchants were trading with Europe and America long before Mathew Perry appeared on the scene.   These samurai delegations were courted by royalty and dined with  Kings and Queens in many foreign lands, and took part in the forming of treaties and global alliances.   There were so many great Japanese intellectuals and legends that are fully documented, these were men who fully embraced their gods and local folk traditions, and were proud of their legacy.   Japanese hardly  pay homage to their own great legendary figures anymore, but instead have been leaning more towards Western folklore.

Yet they still manage to hold on to memories of their long gone ancestors  and gods, albeit, in a more obligatory way nowaday…