Sunday, January 3, 2010

Shionoyu Onson - Shiobara, Tochigi

Map Location

We drove through here ages back while exploring. Onsen areas often look a bit run down, but this place really has a gone bust look to it. There are a few broken down onsens there slowly going to seed. We never thought to go there.

Anyway, by chance we ended up spending a midweek night at Myougaya Honkan (the remaining ryokan). Wow! What a great place. I don't think we really got the photos to do it justice.

There are two distinct parts to Myougaya Honkan. The main building is a modern building and unremarkable. Our rooms were here and they were also pretty standard ryokan/hotel rooms. Normal tatami rooms with futon beds. The view from the rooms down onto the river was very good though.

The rest of the complex is old wooden buildings. The dining area is here. Also there is a covered stairway down to the onsen area.

The food was first rate. Fairly simple kaiseki. The best were the beef cooked on a hotplate and some sashimi (aiyu I think).

The highlight was the riverside onsen. There are men's and women's indoor hot tubs. When we were there the outdoor onsen was mixed in the evening and women only in the morning (6AM - 8AM). There are different pools of different temperature. You are right by the river and can dip your feet in it if you like.

Midweek, peak season (they told us its more expensive when we went in November) it cost 9000 yen each for 4 to a room (I think 2 to a room is 11k each).

More Pictures

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fish by the River, Otawara, Tochigi

You see these places by the river all over Japan. Little hole in the wall open restaurants.

There is one in Otawara: Map Location

The first time we went here was in mid summer. Here's how it works. You go up to a window and there is a Japanese menu on the wall. For us with our basic Kanji reading and good Kana it was the most impenetrable menu ever. But we finally managed to place an order. You have to know what area you are sitting in and tell the lady your table number when ordering. (hint, local river fish are called Aiyu. You want to eat them!)

There are some guys with a charcoal pit cooking fish on sticks and thats what we ordered. It was very good. We understood from them that we should come back in September when they will be catching fish in the river and cooking them right there.

This we did, and on that trip they had set up a giant fish trap on the river. The fish was fantastic. It cost 2000-3000 yen a head for a hole in the wall restaurant. But its worth it.

Its also possible to get your own charcoal pit with seating area around it. For a group that would be fantastic.

Yumoto, Tochigi

Map Location

If you've been to Tochigi there is a good chance you've been to Nikko. You might not have been the lakes up above Nikko though. They are well worth a visit. First up is a quite large lake called Chuzenji. We'll blog about that some time. Its quite a nice place. But even further up in Okunikko (deep Nikko) there are some very nice areas. Today we'll write about Yumoto.

View from the lake walk

Yumoto is a small town by a lake. Its quiet and picturesque. There is some nice walking nearby too. Its a nice place for a slow paced weekend getaway. Its also has a small ski field. We've never been there is winter.

Yumoto Town

There is a nice walk around the lake. It takes about an hour. There is a waterfall at one end and you can also go down to the bottom of that.

Also a bit further south is the Okunikko park. There is lots of good walking in there. Its a kind of wetland that looks a bit look Oze.

We stayed at Itaya hotel. We had a traditional Japanese room with a nice meal for 16,000 yen a night per head. It was nice, but next time I think we'll try a different place.

Onsen at the Itaya

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kusatsu, Gumna

Kusatsu is an onsen town in Gumna Prefecture. Its a great place to visit and it looks like there are many other good places to see nearby. Unfortunately, we had bad weather on our trip and we only saw a small part of it.

The highlight for us was Saino Kawara Park. A small park right near the middle of town with great autumn scenery and one of the best onsens I have ever been in. Very large, busy open onsen with great water. No chance of photos :-(

There's also a nice gallery/shop in town right near the park.

Kusatsu also has a rather strange downtown thermal area.

Raised ducts carry the onsen water

To a kind of waterfall

There is some nice walking around this downtown area

We stayed at a very nice little Ryokan call Hinoki.

We drove in from the east and were quite disappointed with Gumna, though the area just to the east of Kusatsu looks nice. We left to the south and were treated to some great scenery. Also Karuizawa to the south looks like a good place for a food loving foreigner to visit.

More photos

Hinoki Ryokan - Kusatsu, Gumna

Map Location

This is a nice little Ryokan in Kusatsu, Gumna. Its within walking distance of all the nice places we found in this great town. The service and food are great.


Its very hard to find. The map location linked above is accurate. You can access it from the road to the north or the south, but the north is much easier, even though it doesn't look it on the map.

The ryokan entrance from the north

You can book the ryokan at their site. There is also a phone number at that site which you could try (they do speak a little English.)

Great Food!

I'm not normally a big fan of inside onsens, but this one is totally wood and actually quite nice (sorry about the poor photography.)

More Photos (including other Kusatsu pics).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Nasushiobara Clean Centre

Map Location

This is more of an informational post than an interesting one. Its probably only interesting to people who live in this area. Rather a poor post to mark our return to blogging. But, it might save somebody a lot of bother. Also few pictures because Cassandra was afraid of getting into trouble.

If you live in Nasushiobara then you have probably struggled with the rubbish collection system. At first we regularly got our rubbish returned to us because we had put the wrong things out or put the right things out on the wrong day.

Anyway over the years we have collected up lots of stuff that is not accepted by the system. So we set off the for the recycling center to get rid of it. It turned out to be a whole day project because the one right by highway 4 in Nishinasuno (or near there) closed in March 2009 and they put up a rather insufficient map (higher res if you want it)

The new recycling center can be located at the link at the top of the post, though the location might be a bit off. Basically, from Nasushiobara, drive west on route 400, turn north(right) on route 30, cross a large river and turn left, you cant miss it. Its got a big chimney sticking out of it.

When we got there is was indeed a clear center. A nice facility as far as recycling centers go. Pull up at the window and turn off your engine. They'll weigh your car, look at your alien registration card, and have a quick look at the stuff you want to throw out. Then they give you a entry card (which you return when you leave). The lady at the front gate was very nice and very helpful. When we couldn't understand her Japanese she would throw in an English word or 2 to help.

We were throwing out mostly unburnable things so we had to go in, turn right and drive up to the silver door. It opened and in we drove. We stopped inside and another very friendly man came up identified a few things we had to take somewhere else (all burnable I think) and then helped us to put all our things in a pile. Then he changed his mind and took all our burnable things too (Cassandra thinks he liked the look of the clothes I was throwing out).

Reportedly, its very hard to get rid of computers in Japan. The lady at the front told us we couldn't leave a computer and a hard drive we had. But the man happily took them.

Then we drove out, they took back our card, weighed our car, and charged us 400 yen (100 yen per 10 kilograms).

Only in Japan would people working at a rubbish center be so polite friendly and helpful.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Nasushiobara Market - Nasushiobara, Tochigi

One of our favorite things in Nasushiobara is the fruit market. Map Location

Most people think Japan is very expensive. But rural living, in a place like Tochigi, is actually quite cheap. The fruit market is a great example of this. Sometimes friends from Tokyo ask us to take them there to stock up on cheap fruit before returning.

We buy all our fruit and vegetables there. They have a wide variety of things, some local, some imported. Everything from apples to mangos, wasabi root to artichokes. (no durian). They also sell fruit gift boxes. In the back, there is a small supermarket. We don't buy so much in the supermarket, though we do buy quite a bit of our fish there.

This is one of the first places you should learn when you arrive in the area. Its better to get there early if you want the best choice, though it is good at any time of day.