Cool friends, Hot baths, and Delicious sake
There’s something special/sweet about meeting up with old friends in a foreign land. It’s like getting lost and then getting found. It kinda feels like we’ve gone home.
We were en route to meet a group of ultra-running friends who had just taken part in the UTMF (Ultra-Trail Mt Fuji). From Toyama to Akita was a long way so what we did was to break up the journey into 2 parts, making a stopover at Niigata for 2 nights. We took the coastal (Sea of Japan) route because the alternative would be to head back to Tokyo for the transfer to Akita. This way, we got to enjoy another part of Japan and the travelling wouldn’t be insanely long. Here, we finally got moving from Niigata to Akita to Tazawako, to go to the secret onsen.
Here are some of the marvellous views we got from the train and bus.
And finally, after a long and arduous journey, we were reunited with our friends at the secret onsen, Taenoyu. Taenoyu was tucked deep in the mountains and although it was already May, there was still lots of snow.
Taenoyu literally means ‘enchanting boobs’ and is part of the Nyuto Onsen village (Nyuto means nipples). This interesting moniker was due to the village being in the valley of 2 peaks which resembled a pair of full breasts. Despite the names, there were absolutely no sexual undertones pervading the village. In fact, the very isolation of this place makes it a perfect getaway from the cities. Something that we, city dwellers, appreciate immensely.
Not only were we mesmerised by the landscape outside, the baths within lived up to expectations. We would often calibrate the quality of onsens based on their outdoor baths ie the atmosphere of the baths and the views from the outdoor baths. Being laymen, we can’t really distinguish the difference in the quality of the water.
The other highlight of the onsens was always the food. Glorious food! We never cease to be amazed by the quality of the food in terms of freshness, taste and presentation. Here, even the welcome tea they served us were in exquisite teacups paired with fresh flowers plucked from the premises.
All the crockery and cutlery were customised for the ryokan, even the simplest ingredient and the condiments were not overlooked and had their own special vessels.
You may wonder, what else did we do other than soak ourselves wrinkled in the hot soups and eat our hearts out at every meal. Well, we did visit Kaunodate, a samurai village, to try to catch some sakuras. The sakuras didn’t wait for us but we found something better. There was a festive vibe in the village and all the shops had laid out tables in the outdoors for food tasting, including all the sake shops. Yeah, that’s one of our favourite past-times : drinking sakes!
Next: Chasing sakuras at Hanamaki.
Stayed 29-30 April 2013