Monday, March 28, 2016

Snow Monkeys and a Ryokan in Shibu

Having finished the skiing we headed back on smooth bus to Nagoya.  There we bought tickets to the town of Yudanaka.  Once there we checked the bus timetables to the Shibu area and the bus was a 45 minute wait.  So we strode off dragging our suitcases for 20 minutes to our accommodation for the night.  The distance wasn’t too far, but it was on a definite uphill incline.  Dropping our bags we raced back down to the main street and with 2 minutes to spare we caught the bus that had come from the station – we recognised some of the passengers.  The bus ride was less than 10 minutes, but it was definitely uphill all the way.

We looked at the site restaurant but it was teeming – it was just after 12 – so not surprising.  We needed something to eat because the walk we were about to go on was going to take at least an hour return – so standing in the snow we chose to buy an ice-cream each.  A natural choice!!! But it did the job

We were off to see the snow monkeys.  Japanese Macaques, that bath in the natural hot pools.  Because we were there in the afternoon I was worried we weren’t going to see any because more swim in the mornings – but there were hundreds around – but only a few swimming at a time. 


Andrew finally got to wear his 1970’s ski hat this trip – so old it is almost fashionable again.  So we wandered back down to the mountain restaurant for some surprisingly good ramen before returning to  town.


And the location was an ideal place to stay at an up-market Ryokan (Japanese traditional inn) so we treated ourselves to Kokuya Ryokan which came with it’s own private onsen (hot pool) on the balcony of our room.  We were shown to our room, along the way looking at the six different ‘public’ onsen in the building. 


This is Andrew sitting in our room.  The low table on the tatami mat had a heating pad under it and was toasty warm.  What you cant see is Andrew looking around the room while the staff member poured the tea, took our choices for dinner and breakfast.  Eventually it got too much for him and he asked ‘where do we sleep?’  The young man smiled and explained our futon would be prepared while we were at dinner.

Staff gone we headed out to the hot pool.  The water was really hot and did need cold water to be added. 


We had a brief lesson on wearing our Yukata robes.  And because it was winter there was a overcoat.  People walk the streets of the town to visit the 9 public baths.  Each bath is supposed to cure a different ailment.  However we hung about our room, bathing reading and waiting for dinner


And dinner was certainly an event.  High class japanese dining with a series of 9 small courses.  Some were delicious some,…interesting but all beautifully prepared and presented.  Wagyu beef, ginger shoots, soba noodles, tofu and even a desert. 

We returned to our room and Andrew was relieved to see bedding laid out – even with a note saying one was extra long. And he slept like a baby.


Our trip report for Japan would NOT be complete it toilets were not mentioned.  We got rather used to the special heated toilet seats, nice!  It took Andrew more than 2 days to get the courage to push the side buttons on the toilet.   The pictograms describe what happens.  At the airport looking through the shops we did see deluxe toilet seats for sale, not something you see in most airports


For breakfast I chose the Japanese style breakfast and Andrew the western.  My breakfast was interesting, not something I feel I need to repeat.  Mmmm half raw egg, I’m not huge on egg at the best of time.  The little dried fish on a layer of raw turnip were not my cup of tea.


Then back to the train, to Nagoya and the Shinkansen back to Tokyo.  We dropped our bags and had a wander around before returning to the airport hotel to prepare for a morning return flight to Thailand.
A sight we had not seen before was the airport ground-crew lining up as we taxied away from the departure gate and they bowed in a very Japanese manner to the plane.  They then proceeded to wave to the plane until we couldn't see them any longer.

We had superb views of Mt Fuji from the airplane.

We really enjoyed our short time in Japan- I’m sure we will return!


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