We made it out of Tokyo this Wednesday to the tune of hundreds of kilometers and hours of train riding. Westward we whizzed at unbelievable rates of speed, thru increasingly small towns, to a cute little ski village in the middle of nowhere mountainville.
Dozens more pictures coming but a quick intro before Tara beats me out with her professional shots! 🙂
Turns out, you’re supposed to come to this village on January 15, when they light a massive bonfire in the middle of town.
Although we haven’t sussed out the exact story behind the fire festival, it involves these two cheerful folks– the travel gods.
And with roads this icy and windy, it’s really no wonder there are gods of safe travel.
The town, adorably planted at the root of several mountains appeared to be almost entirely comprised of gift shops, restaurants, hot spring onsens, and hotels. We arrived just between massive snow drops, so our walk around the town revealed lots of sturdy plants and temples boldly soldering on under feet of powder, some of which landed rather alarmingly at our feet as the locals blindly shoveled off their roofs.
The next day, CJ went skiing and Tara and I claimed two of three pairs of snow shoes apparently in the village. It was like a scene out of Goldilocks, they had one adult pair, one medium pair, and one that a was only an inch or two bigger than real shoes. So we never managed to actually get on top of the snow so much as sink deeply into it. We quickly bailed on the plan to snowshoe the woods when I realized I stood a good chance of disappearing forever under snow (shoes or not) and freezing to death.
So since we were just ahead of the season rush–literally *just* ahead since we saw them coming in bumper to bumper as we drove out on Friday–we wandered down the almost empty ski trails. We wandered for hours up there, then trecked all over the tiny, little town looking for temples and onsen and treasure and the like and just when we’d lost all our toes and most of our energy, there it was! A foot onsen! So much more awesome than mere words on a page can convey. Look at that expression—just amazing.
Anyway, more coming soon from Tara. (And I have more temple pics to subject you all to once I figure out exactly who the temples are for.) But for now, just one parting shot: