I’m back with part two of my Nagano adventure – sorry it’s taking me a while, but I’ve been rather busy lately! (For part one, click here.) After a day of finding happiness and blessings at Zenkoji, Kazue and I made our way to our hotel. To get there, we took the “Snow Monkey Limited Express” train to Yudanaka:
Indeed, we were heading in the direction of snow monkeys!! (More about that in part three…)
I was a little nervous about the hotel to be honest. Kazue had booked everything, and all I really knew was that it was a hot spring hotel. Public bathing in hot springs (onsen) is a popular activity in Japan and I have said time and again that I absolutely don’t want to do it. I mean, I’m not a prude or anything, but I just don’t like the idea of getting naked with my friends, or some strangers, and taking a bath. I guess I can blame my Britishness! 😉
Anyway, Kazue insisted that it would be no problem as I could take a private bath at this hotel. Now, that really appealed to me! Hot spring water is supposed to be really good for your skin – I just didn’t want to share my bath time with anyone else.
We arrived at the tiny station, where we were met by a driver from the hotel. We were the only guests being picked up, so we had a personal chauffeur service for the ten minute drive to the hotel. There was quite a bit of snow around, and the hotel was up a winding hill, so I was very glad to be driven!
The hotel (Kanbayashi Hotel Senjukaku) was nice. I mean, really nice!
And everything was perfect! We were greeted by polite staff who carried our bags (the woman who carried my heavy rucksack was literally half my size and I felt so guilty!) and brought us some hot tea and tiny snack while we waited.
I instantly felt special! 😀
When we were shown to our rooms, at first I thought it was going to be just an ordinary hotel room. It was just an ordinary door in an ordinary corridor, but when the door opened we were suddenly transported into a ryokan!
It was shoes off, yukata on time!
As I said, I had never stayed at a hot spring before, so I didn’t know you could wander about in your yukata. This was on one hand very relaxing, but on the other hand I had to be very careful not to bare all! I wish I had brought some leggins with me!
The hotel had a small but pretty garden, and a little lounge area with free tea and coffee where you could relax and watch the still, snowy view.
Soon it was time for dinner. Kazue had requested no meat for me, which I was so grateful about! I have to say, it was one of the best meals I have ever eaten. The food came in tiny, beautiful portions and there were so many courses! It was all delicious, and by the end I felt like I was going to explode (Mr. Creosote style!), and yet it was a healthy kind of stuffed. Here are just a few of the dishes:
After dinner it was bath time. I got a special key from reception, which allowed me access to the private bath for 45 minutes, and Kazue went off to the public bath.
When bathing Japanese style you have to wash yourself completely before entering the bath, in the area near the bath where you will see a shower and a sort of bucket/bowl.
This bathroom had two baths, one inside and one outside. First I wandered outside (which, I have to say, feels very odd when you’re naked!).
It was cold, but the water was really hot and felt lovely. However, it felt a bit strange sitting there, outside, naked. Also, I managed to convince myself there were bugs in the water, and even thought I saw a crab! Anyway, I guess I only lasted about five minutes in the outside bath, before retreating inside.
It was much more relaxing inside. Still, I found myself a little bored. I love taking baths, but I always read in the bath. It would have been impossible to read in there as it was so steamy, and I discovered that I’m not very good at doing nothing. It was also too hot to stay in the bath too long, but I guess I stayed in there about 15 or 20 minutes.
Anyway, after the bath I put my pajamas and yukata and wandered back to the lounge to meet Kazue. I felt very relaxed and my skin was so soft and smooth.
On the way back to the room we picked up some azuki (red beans) ice cream (apparently we had “betsu bara” – second stomach – when it came to sweets!). It was very relaxing to lounge about on futons eating ice cream.
I soon got very sleepy, and had one of the best night’s sleep ever!
In the morning, the first thing I did was check out the snowy view:
As I sat there sipping some tea, I saw a white Japanese crane fly by – it was breathtakingly perfect.
Amazingly, we were soon hungry again, and sat down to a delicious Japanese style breakfast, which was just as perfect as dinner had been (although I can’t quite get the hang of salad and vegetables for breakfast):
This wasn’t the kind of hotel that foreigners would normally stay at I expect, but I would highly recommend it if you’re planning a trip to Nagano. It was the perfect mixture of Japanese style and Western style. See here for the hotel’s website (in Japanese).
After breakfast, we set out into the snow and rain to find monkeys. But more about that in part three… 😉