Mountains. A tree in a mantle of white. Snows falling with the gentle breeze. Past and future… future and past; two sides of the world molded into one. That is the beauty of Onsen Ryokans. A cover from a picture-perfect world.
The world of digitalization makes the world a much smaller place. We tend to be more brave. Venture into the unknown without the fear of getting lost. Perfect for the enchanted world of Japan. Perfect for Takaragawa Onsen.
Without doing research, these ancient mountaintop town of hot springs are impossible to find. But believe me, these hidden gems are well worth the effort.
Over 200km north of Tokyo, Shinkansen is a must. The bullet train’s combination of speed and service (the most modern railroad in the world) makes Amtrak look like a 19th century antique.
Takaragawa Onsen is no walk in the park. After the 2-hr Shinkansen, we hop into a small shuttle and drive 45 minutes up to the mountaintop.
Finally, we have arrived. Immediately, we feel like we’ve been transported back in time. Back into the 12th century. Back to the Age of Samurai. Our bedroom is a simple woodblock print with folding screens, sliding doors, and no beds. Just tatami mats, futons, and of course… a Yukata!
We slowly stroll around the snowy gardens into the hot spring. The elaborate landscape, the crisp air, the Yukata, the streaming river, and the glistening untouched snow makes you feel like you’re living in ancient history. It is a dream-like ritual as you make your first step into the hot springs. Snow literally melts on top of your head. Is this Earth? Is this reality? Yes, this is Japan.
Onsens are also famed for their Kaiseki-ryōri. It is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner paired with ceremonial tea. There are appetizers, sushis, sashimi, flame-grilled foods, palate cleansers, vegetables, hot-pot, and desserts. Waitresses in Yukata that dedicate their lives working here assists you in preparing these dishes. Sorry Mastros & Ruth’s Chris, I rather have this than a steakhouse any day.
In a blink of an eye, morning has arrived. It’s time to leave this pace of life. Life of peace, life of calmness, life of an ancient forgotten time.
The culture of Japan never ceases to amaze me. Every time I go, I come back a new person. It’s like opening my life and taste buds again for the very first time. Their culture makes me want to be a better person, to have a more patient soul, and to be ever more polite to everyone around me. On top of that, they have hot bottle Japanese Ito-en Tea! Yes, can’t beat that.
Come visit Japan. And come visit their Onsens. It’ll be one of the most euphoric experiences of your life. I guarantee it.