Nagano adventure pt. 2/3: My first hot spring

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 โ€œSnow Monkey Limited Expressโ€ train to Yudanaka:

Snow Monkey Limited Express

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,ย 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! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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!

Our hotel: Senjukaku

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.

A welcoming snack

I instantly felt special! ๐Ÿ˜€

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!

Our hotel room

It was shoes off, yukata on time!

Kazue and I in yukata

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.

Snowy garden at the hotel

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:

Dinner

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Dinner

โ˜†โ˜…โ˜†

Dinner

โ˜†โ˜…โ˜†

Dinner

โ˜†โ˜…โ˜†

Dinner

โ˜†โ˜…โ˜†

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.

Onsen (hot spring bath)

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!).

Onsen (hot spring bath)

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.

Onsen (hot spring bath)

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.

Azuki ice cream

I soon got very sleepy, and had one of the best night’s sleep ever!

Futons on tatami

In the morning, the first thing I did was check out the snowy view:

Morning snow

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):

Breakfast

โ˜†โ˜…โ˜†

Breakfast

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Breakfast

โ˜†โ˜…โ˜†

Breakfast

โ˜†โ˜…โ˜†

Breakfast

โ˜†โ˜…โ˜†

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… ๐Ÿ˜‰

9 thoughts on “Nagano adventure pt. 2/3: My first hot spring

  1. Ah~~~~ Nagano!!!! I went there for New Year and it was soooo wonderful. Your photos are making me all ๆ‡ใ‹ใ—ใ„ใ€œใ€œ hehe.

    I’m shocked that this was your first time going to an onsen! You’ve been in Japan for quite awhile haven’t you? I thought it was something that came with like… the welcome package, lol. I’m so glad that you were able to experience one ๐Ÿ˜€ But I agree… it does get a little boring. lol. I went with my boyfriend and we had to go into separate baths… and he wanted to stay in FOREVER and go multiple times and I was like ‘… it’s not fun to go ALONE’. I like going with girlfriends so we can chat at least!

    The food!!! I just want to eat it all so much I could cry, hahaha.

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    • Fail for lack of edit function. I meant to say that I’m shocked it was your first time and that no one forced you to go sooner. lol. Most Japanese people don’t take no for an answer when it comes to getting naked in the onsen ๐Ÿ˜€

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  2. Looks like you had a good time.

    Up to and including my first time in an onsen (which was with my host brother and his dad) I felt pretty uneasy and wasn’t looking forward to it, but nowadays I don’t mind going now and then. It’s never my idea, but if people want to drag me along I’ll comply and have a good enough time.

    I guess it’s our Western upbringing – both not wanting to be naked around people we’re not intimate with and not considering bathing a group leisure activity. =P But I think after once or twice you get over it and can just enjoy the bath.

    I went to an onsen with some friends when I was in Nagano last year that had an outdoor bath. Not somewhere I’d want to spend an hour, but was nice to sit there for a few minutes in the hot water while it was snowing.

    Anyway, take it or leave it, at least now you can say you’ve done it! =)

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  3. ha ha !
    I love onsen and sentou and rotenburo.
    I’m glad a friend took me to one early on in my first trip or perhaps I’d never have started trying them out.
    The heat usually gets me before boredom. It’s a very Japanese social activity. Maybe because older housing doesn’t have a bath or modern home baths are so cramped. Japanese people are more likely to talk to me in an onsen for some reason. Whereas, like the dinner served in your room, dining and drinking seem to emphasise privacy in a crowded country.
    For the traveller the variety is part of the attraction (like the attraction in the variety of shrines and temples). Old fifities era snentou where tattoed yakuza hang out, super-onsen with themed baths, old wooden baths in a mountain monastery, a big copper pot of a rotenburo with the cicada chirping at night, a clothed mixed rotenburo that’s also a shrine by the shore of an active volcano…. natsukashii~
    The onsen at Nagoya airport is the best way I ever found of recovering after a long flight.
    It’s also interesting that mobile sentou in insulated trucks are part of earthquake relief in North Japan.

    Do you know what the stuff on the leaf and wire mesh is? I remember having it once but no idea what it is.

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  4. I live in Nagano and can confirm it’s lovely! I’ve still never stayed in a Ryoukan, though. It seems a bit too impersonal and stuffy for me. Beautiful surroundings, though.

    I get bored in onsen too!

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