Takatsue Winter Wonderland One-night Onsen Trip
I wanted a quick overnight getaway from Tokyo to experience some nature instead of heading to crowded tourist areas. Takatsue Ski resort in Fukushima is relatively close to Tokyo, only about 170 minutes Tohoku Shinkansen, and is not just for skiing. All four seasons offer many seasonal activities like star gazing, hiking, snow rafting and a zipline adventure, but Takatsue is known for its superfine powder snow and breathtaking panoramic views of Japan's 100 famous mountains! I am not really a skier so I decided a snowshoe trek was a great option to experience this winter wonderland. We started at the well-equipped ski lodge and geared up. This is a great option as a tourist because all the gear is provided so my clothes didn't get wet and I stayed warm, although Japanese winters in the area are really sunny. The snow is quite deep so we were provided with snowshoes. Wearing these is quite an experience. On our trek we were able to see some fox prints, make some snow angels and take some amazing photos of the mountains and of course the exercise was a nice benefit. I finished off with some lunch at the lunch of Tonkatsu (pork cutlet) and a quick visit to the gift shop and an Olympic photo.
Yanushigawa Onsen Kamaukura Festival
After lunch we boarded a bus to Aizukougen Ozeguchi station to board the Revaty Special Express train bound for Asakusa and got off at Yunishigawa Onsen station, operated by Yagan Railway.
The train is the 500 series run by Tobu Railways for all you train geeks and the short trip was the perfect time for a rest. The station has a great view of the train coming in on the tressel. After we arrived we had a little time so I soaked my feet in the foot bath and did some shopping at the gift shop.
Then we headed to the Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura Festival. Kamakura is a city in Japan but these Kamakura are snow huts a lot like the igloos I built as a child in Massachusetts. But in these you can even make an appointment to have a BBQ and there are tatami mats inside! We arrived on Valentines Day and I can imagine it would make for a perfect date. First we toured the small Historic village Heike-no-sato or village of Heike. The Heike built small villages to hide in and teach their lifestyle to future generations after being defeated by the Genji during the late Heian period. Here I saw some traditional buildings and artifacts of their lifestyle in the dioramas. Because it is the winter Kamakura festival, I was able to see the snow lanterns and Kamakura snow huts! There is also a fabulous display of small lanterns further up the road along the Sawaguchi river.
Stay at Kinugawa Onsen
Next we were off to Kinugawa onsen Asaya Hotel! I was really looking forward to exploring the various baths here and even the many amenities the hotel has to offer. As soon as you walk into this cavernous resort your senses are inundated with Japanese luxury and hospitality and I really felt privileged. After I was guided to my room and given the explanation of the vast amenities offered, I changed into my yukata. The room itself was western style and had all anyone would need in between going to the many baths and culinary fare offered here. There were many explanations written English to spare tourists and embarrassment which was a thoughtful touch.
I proceeded down to the buffet dinner and was overwhelmed by the choices! They had many stations from sushi to steak, crab legs, freshly cooked pasta, pizza station, dessert bar, a bar with a huge beer cistern. I was thinking maybe I won't even make it to the bath. After many trips to the buffet, I was off to explore the rotenburo (outdoor bath) on the roof for some stargazing. This was the smaller bath area but was quite spacious. The night sky was gorgeous over Nikko. This is luxury! With a full stomach I explored the many rooms and bars in the hotel like the game room, library, kids room, pool tables and a few bars including Swing Time, a quiet cocktail bar where I had a drink and some karaoke with a friend. The hotel is filled with traditional Japanese art and crafts and since its the Hina Matsuri festival soon, the hotel had several displays of the complete sets of dolls. Back to the room for a good night's sleep. Breakfast was a great buffet style fare with many western and Japanese foods to choose from. I had a custom made omelet and some french toast and hit the yogurt bar. I hit the gift store before exploring the many sites in Nikko. The station is a short Nikko bus ride away. This was a really convenient, fun and relaxing overnight trip.