01.08.2015 - 04.08.2015 32 °C
We have taken a temporary break from Tokyo after spending two nights there. We come back to Tokyo after our weekend stay in Nozawa Onsen for three nights so we will publish our Tokyo blog after that.
We put our bags in lockers and headed off to see the Zenko-ji temple while we waited for our next train. It was actually built in the 7th century (yeah, only the 7th century) and was actually nice to walk around. Here’s a few more temple happy snaps to soak in.
As I am sure a lot of people can appreciate, once you have a visited a place you can always think of better ways that you could have got around or done it in a smarter way. That is certainly the way with us after discovering Nozawa Onsen.
We booked three nights at a lodge in Nozawa Onsen which we thought was very close to Nagano. We discovered was that it was actually another 12 minutes on the Shinkansen (just opened), or 1 hour on local train, followed by a 30 minute bus ride up the mountain. No problems, the directions provided by the hostel smoothed our way! In fact, there is an Aussie guy (Luke) with a Japanese wife (Mariko) who manage the lodge, owned by more Aussies who live on the Gold Coast. This place would be flat out in Winter, especially with Australians coming to ski in December and January (it’s actually cheaper to come here for a longer ski trip than to stay in Australia!).
On the night we arrived, Luke and Mariko invited us out to fireworks at the local lake. The fireworks aren’t like what we have back in Australia, in that they would announce the sponsors and then have a brief fireworks session, followed by another announcement. This went on for about an hour and half and was pretty impressive. Summer is fireworks season in Japan, no particular festival, they just like to have fireworks!
There were a lot of resort towns upgraded for the 1998 Winter Olympics. We discovered that Nozawa Onsen was used for the Biathlon and for Ski jump, we could still see the runs and the infrastructure used. There are local ski champions and gold medal winners all over the village!
It’s a beautiful town to walk around with a lot of buildings having quite a European feel to them. There’s water running everywhere, springs flowing all around the houses, and veggie patches in every bit of available space (growing veggies and rice for the Winter).
On our must do list was a visit to an Onsen, which is a public bathing house. Everyone in the town goes to the public Onsen (or they pay to go private) for their bathing each day. You walk in, strip off (no point being self-conscious!), wash yourself and you can jump into a very warm 42 degree bath for a soak; better in the cooler months than in on a warm 32 degree day. They are heated by mineral springs and some have a sulphurous smell – the boys weren’t too keen on that! A very common sight is to see villagers in their kimonos with a towel over their shoulders sauntering down to the local onsen!
On our second day, we caught the Gondala to the top of Mt Kokenashi. It was a bit hazy but the views were impressive. The boys managed to play some mallet croquet, summer toboggan and there was a playground there too. It was really nice just to walk around and enjoy the scenery. Plus it was cooler!
We met an American family who have been living in Japan for 8 years. We ended up having dinner with them for two nights and having some great chats about their adventures.
We really enjoyed Nozawa Onsen and none of us wanted to leave. We would definitely come back here during the autumn months for the colours and winter for the fresh powder snow. Lachie has been wanting to go to the snow for a long time, a good excuse to come back we think!