When we got off the train, it was a brilliantly sunny day, though cold, and we decided to walk up the hill to our Ryokan instead of waiting for the shuttle.
Once we were ensconced in the hotel, we went to the onsen for our first dip. I obviously have no pictures of the onsen itself, but there were two different hot pool rooms, which switch back and forth between men and women in the morning and the evening. Both of them have a big indoor pool and a slightly smaller outdoor pool, with taps and shower heads around the indoor room for you to wash yourself before getting into the pool. The indoor room is very steamy, and since we went in the winter, the outdoor air is cold, which makes the water feel even hotter as you get in, even though you're only outside for a few seconds before getting back in the water.
|Emma behind the paper screen.|
Fortunately I wasn't especially hungry, because we'd had a huge tempura lunch not too long before, so it wasn't especially a disaster. I tried tiny bites of some of the fish and of the beef in the hot pot, and I can confidently report that I'm not going to start eating meat while I'm here. Fish just tastes so ...fishy. And beef tastes really ...meaty. They just don't taste like food. That is my official report on meat to you, as a life-long vegetarian.
Since we all passed out at about 9:30, it was really easy to get up around 7 and go to the onsen before breakfast. It's a great way to start the day, I must say. After breakfast, we headed out to explore the area, and take the bus up the mountain to the lake and shrine up there. The area is beautiful- stone and hillside, winter trees and sky.
|I don't know if these stairs actually went anywhere.|
|It was cold enough on the hillside that the water was frozen.|
Then we took the bus up the mountain, winding through switchbacks that were even steeper and sharper than the ones up the Blue Ridge Mountains, my previous reference for most-mountainous driving conditions. I'm not sure how much higher the elevation is, but it was definitely several degrees colder up there. The stores in the town up there were actually quite a bit cheaper than the stores selling the same regional products downhill, so I bought Februmas presents for folks, which I will mail home... someday. Took me three weeks to send the postcards, so we'll see. Then we decided to fortify ourselves with caffeine and food before walking around the lake to the shrine, so we stopped in the Italian Tratteria for warmth, pizza, coffee, and the most amazing tiramisu.
All prepared, we walked around the bend of the lake to the shrine, which is probably amazingly beautiful at dusk, since it was strung with lights. Through the gates, and up the stairs on the hill, is the shrine, looking over the lake.
Our final morning, we did the onsen again before breakfast, checked out but left our bags at the hotel, and went back up the mountain to the glass museum before catching the train back home.