Skip to main content

Old ~ Ichinobe Onsen

Old ~ Ichinobe Onsen

Photo taken at 1a.m.

After thoroughly soaking away the stiffness in my back,  in a mineral rich  hot spring bath for thirty minutes, I could slowly feel the tension ease away down through my legs.     While in that state of peace I reflected on the events of the day and what was to come the next day.   Dinner  and drinks with a local girl was fantastic tonight.    I had met her  a few times,  once in Nagoya and the second time in Tokyo, and this time in Gunma - her hometown.  Nice being served chilled sake again, like how her nimble fingers delicately held the bottle when she poured the sake in my cup.   I like how she rested her hands under her chin after serving me,  while watching me sip the rice brew.


Ichinobe is another off the beaten track hot spring / onsen town; no street lights after dusk.  Nights are so quiet you can hear mosquito wings.   Autumn nights are nice in Gunma.  A bit chilly, but comfortable enough to wear a flannel and some sandals.   Dinner that night was grilled squid over bottles of chilled sake.  Gunma Prefecture is not well-known for fish and that  is because it's sort of in the middle of everything.  If you visit this prefecture try the pork cutlets, miso paste, sake, and pickled foods.   And of course, the great natural outdoor spas.




While there may be famous landmarks here, like statues and temples and stuff, I have not visited them.   I think people visit Gunma for the nature and the camping expeditions. In the picture there's a fire main for water.   I have personally visited this region dozens of times to enjoy camping and driving.   The scenery offers excellent vistas, especially in Autumn.    There's even a wild safari park for the kids.   Gunma is easily accessible by car or train - two hours. 
Gunma could even be day-trip for some people if you live in Tokyo.   


Another caveat I wanted to mention was that there aren't many restaurants around small onsen communities in Gunma, so bring your own food and drinks after dark.  And if there're any restaurants  they probably close early.   The nearest major train hub is Takasaki Station and they have everything there.   If you are the type of traveller who enjoys solitude and being away from the crowds and don't mind going solo, then Gunma would be the place.   


There are quite a few hotels at reasonable rates that offer tatami rooms for under 7000 yen ( $60 ).   I specifically chose a room with tatami flooring for relaxation.   Japan imports 70% of its tatami from China and is therefore cheaper and inferior in quality than Japanese tatami which is made using real "Igusa"  a type of grass with medicinal benefits that soothe the senses.   Everybody knows real tatami is very expensive, but since modern flooring and bedding has replaced traditional flooring in most Japanese homes, real tatami / washitsu has lost its popularity.   


I especially enjoy relaxing on a tatami in summer, particularly after a long soak in a spa.   The coolness from the straw and the heat from the body emit a very grassy smell that makes you feel like you are outside and sprawled out on a grassy knoll.   The window is wide open behind me and a gentle breeze comes in through the paper doors and dries the excess moisture from my skin.   I can hear the gentle sounds of the bush warbler.   It's a type of heaven....


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Shin-Okubo: Little Korea

So I finally got around to going up there to Shin-Okubo,  the land of Seoul via the Yamanote Line.  Been putting this trip off for years for personal reasons;  I am not a fan of Hanlleyu.      I knew why I came up this way, and for none other reason than the food, and maybe to bask in the nausea of Korean romanticist who steal Japanese Jukujo's souls.    But honestly, I like spicy food and stews and pickled vegetables that challenge my taste buds.    I also love the little funky cafes that line the main thoroughfares and alley ways, each with their own little eclectic menus and interior decor.     This place is Korea.  





Shin-Okuba represents more than just a place to relish in Korean culinary delights and K-pop culture, but a place where Koreans can express themselves through their culture.    You can feel the local vibe in the air as you're walking down narrow walkways and footpaths.    I have personally been to mainland Korea six times, so a lot of the nostalgia was there …

August: The Return of Souls

August is peak summer season in Japan.  We can look forward to some of the most spectacular fireworks displays and festivals in the world, especially  in places like Tohoku and Kanto regions.  August is also  the most contentious month of the year in Japan; with the end of the war and war-related guilt.    Then there's the great exodus back home for millions of Japanese.   Obon season is what it's called in Japan, and it's  where families return to their hometowns to remember their ancestors and to spend time with loved ones.  Gravestones are visited, cleaned, and washed; rice or alcohol is often placed on  miniature altars next to a  headstone.  This is a way for Japanese to reconnect with their roots; a way for them to stay grounded and founded in the ways of tradition and cultural protocol.   

For the foreign tourist, some places will be overcrowded and expensive to reach; for Japanese, this is normal and can't be helped.   Wherever you go there will be lines and h…

Japan Board of Education: Amazing Grace...?

Japan Board of Education Textbook.
Amazing Grace
Shuken Shuppan  Polestar textbook English Communication

Preface:  Japanese / Japan is  one of the leading donors in humanitarian aid around the world.   They have donated billions of yen to charities, developing countries, and startup business to just about every country on the globe.  Some Japanese have even taken matters to the extreme  to the point of poking their noses into hotspot areas like Palestine and Isreal, things the Japanese may want to avoid.  Had Japan shared its borders with an ethnic minority with its own government, the relative peace and calm of this country would be questionable.   No other country can be like nor emulate Japan.   So, where does this spirit of charity and altruism come from exactly?   Why do the Japanese feel they need to save the whole world, while caring very little for its own people?   It's the Board of Education...?  The essay below is one such example of what Japanese kids learn in school,…