Sunday, October 14, 2007

Satinoyu Onsen - Tochigi

Map Location

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You can visit for a day visit or stay the night. This is a very good onsen.
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It wasn't busy and it had one of the nicest outside baths that we have visited.
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Its nearby to an onsen town called Itamuro which is a nice place to stop and look around. There is a nice walk along the river there.

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Sunday, October 7, 2007

Hatsuchonoya Onsen - Okukinu, Tochigi

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This is a very nice Ryokan in the Okukinu area.

From the car park you can walk in. It takes about an hour. You can also bus in. Most people are going to combine with with the Okukinu walk. They can make a rice ball lunch for the walk and also bus you out after your walk too.

This onsen is quite different from others we have visited. Its strong points are location and great onsen. The room was good. The food was good, but not great.

On a Friday night we paid 9,000 yen per person.

The staff was very friendly and one guy speaks pretty good English.
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Okukinu - Tochigi

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Okukinu is a fantastic area in Tochigi in between Nikko and Oze. This walk is a very good overnight trip. Though if are very fit you could do it in one long, long day.

Its a very nice drive to get to the area, though the road is a bit narrow in parts. There are lots of ryokan on the way in too so it could easily be made into a 3 day trip. You can't miss the starting area. There is a big car park and the road closes to regular traffic.

From the parking area its about one hour walk to the first of a small group of in park ryokan. You can take a bus if you prefer. The walk is nice, there is a bit of construction at the start but you will soon be past that.

We stayed at Hatsuchonoya Onsen. Its very nice and covered in a separate post.

Its a 2 1/2 hour walk to the top. There are some quite long steep sections but its beautiful along the way. At the top there is a great alpine meadow. Its a good place for lunch. From there you can walk to the top of a small mountain with nice views, but its not a must see. You can also walk to Oze, but that must be a very long walk.

Its a 3 1/2 hour walk back to the car park. You might consider taking the bus back from the onsen area. The whole walk starting from the onsen, finishing at the carpark and including the small mountain must be about 20 km. If you skip the mountain and take the bus its probably 12 or 13 km.
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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Nasunogahara Park - Nasushiobara, Tochigi

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This is probably the largest park in the Nasushiobara area.
Like most parks in Japan it is worth visiting in the different seasons because its character changes a lot with the seasons. There is a fountain with a shop, little hall (we once saw a bonsai exhibition there) and a place you can rent bicycles. There is a beautiful wooded area. And a very nice field which is great for a picnic. There is a nice view from the hill area. I bet it would be a good place to go for a run, though its some distance from downtown so you couldn't run to it (and I hate driving to go for a run).
This is a great park for kids. There is a large playground area. And a great obstacle course. You have to pay a small amount to use the course. Both of them are sensational. These are not your watered down, wimpy, low litigation playgrounds found in Australia or USA. These are exciting and slightly dangerous playgrounds of my youth. I had a lot of fun on the obstacle course.
There is also a rather prominent, kitch windmill which I hate.

See also Nasushiobara Cherry Blossom

Monday, October 1, 2007

Asahi Brewery - Fukushima

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Free beer! And only an hours drive from Nasushiobara. How did it take us a whole year to discover this?
At the brewery there is a barbeque restaurant with beer and you can do a factory tour. The barbeque area is nice. We just sat and had some snacks and a few beers. I'd like to go back there for a barbeque some time.

Its quite different to the Sapporo beer factory tour (in Sapporo, Hokkaido). For a start its guided. And its much more a tour of an operational beer factory (which was not in operation on the day we were there). It was a good tour with English signs along the way and an English brochure for us to read. At the end of the tour there is free beer! You get one 300ml (guessing there) glass of beer (the photo is a 700ml beer in the restaurant) and can have 3 (I think) refills. There are some nice little snacks too.
The beer hall and tour at Sapporo were much more beautiful and historic. But the Fukushima tour was very interesting. I think it would be fantastic when the brewery is actually operating. And the friendly staff made it very pleasant too. And its free beer an hours drive from Nasushiobara!!!!

No photos allowed on the tour and we were too busy drinking to take serious travel photos so sorry, no extra photos.

Sendai Hira - Fukushima

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Its just a short stop. But its right next to Abukuma Caves. There is a good panoramic view from the top of this hill.
Most notably, it looks like hang gliders take off from there sometimes. There was a windsock and a launch ramp. Nearby there is a camp ground, which I am sure is primarily used by hang gliders.

There is also a little temple on the way up the hill. We didn't stop there.

The camp ground has some nice looking little huts too.

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Abukuma Caves - Fukushima

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This is a fun cave visit. Its located next to an observatory that you could combine in the same trip. When we were there, there was a huge event on with a stage, bands, comedians and a lot of food stalls. But I am sure thats not the normal case.

Honestly, I don't think the caves are so good. At least the formations are fairly tame compared to what we have seen before. But it was fun because the pathway becomes very restricted in parts and you have to crawl and scramble to get past some bits. It might be a bit scary for even mildly claustrophobic people.

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