Winter has just ended when I arrived in Japan in March 2015 but some mountains are still covered in snow. My Okaasan* booked us a trip to a snow mountain in Okuhida which is about 4 hours by bus from Shinjuku Bus Terminal. Okuhida is popular for its hot springs and is surrounded by the Japan Northern Alps including Mt. Hotakadake where we went.
*Okaasan is the Japanese word for 'mom'. I am not related to her but we're good friends so I call her Okaasan.
I'm really amazed by the precision of Japan's transportation. From the train to the bus, we didn't have to wait so long, we got on the train and buses at the time that was planned. I never had a schedule so accurate as this! The 4-hour bus ride wasn't boring at all. We had a stop over in between I got some Fuji apple flavored KitKats. The Kitkat craze there is real and they have a specialty in some locations it seems as the stop over place is famous for Fuji apples. The view on the way was also beautiful that I didn't realize the travel length.
My First Snow Experience
It was a snow mountain but my Okaasan was so nice that she didn't arrange an actual snow climb. I'm not a real hiker like her, she's over 60 years old but hikes mountains almost every month with other senior people! They're stronger than me for sure even if I'm younger.
This double deck cable car takes you so high that you will see several mountain ranges of Japan's Northern Alps! This car stops at the mountain range side of Mt. Hotakadake.
I laid on the snow. I touched the snow. I even tasted the snow! Call me crazy but I have to savor the experience (lol). And I think it was clean because we were on the mountain. I do hope so, but my stomach was fine so I guess it was!
We just walked around the flat area and didn't proceed with the mountain trail. We got back in the afternoon for a more Japanese experience.
Inside a Ryokan
What could be more Japanese for a traveler than a stay inside a ryokan? A ryokan is a traditional Japanese guesthouse. Even Okaasan excitedly told me in her email that she booked a ryokan and that the experience is totally Japanese, and I trust the local.
We were greeted by a cute dog. A Shiba Inu if I remember it correctly. He was barking at us as if to tell his owner some strangers want in.
At the entrance you have to take off your shoes. It's not new to me because it's also a practice in some homes here in the Philippines. Also note that in some homes in Japan, you may have to take off your shoes. That's also the way it is at Okaasan's home where I stayed in Tokyo.
Shoes off. The floor is clean
This part of Okuhida is an Onsen village. An Onsen is a hot spring bath most of the guesthouses in this area would have one.
A Traditional Japanese Dinner
We didn't really climb but it was exhausting nonetheless and the sumptuous dinner served to us was a real treat! It was my first time to have a Kaiseki which is a traditional multi-course Japanese meal. It was a variety of a lot of dishes in small servings. There was sashimi, steamed eggs, tofu, a variety of steamed veggies, soup and more. I didn't know them but they were all so delicious! Each small dish was so good you wished there was a bigger serving!
And yes we finished it all! This is now officially my favorite Japanese meal. And the plum wine was so good too, I think better than sake.
An Onsen Inside a Ryokan
A lot of hikers come to stay in this ryokan for the onsen that thay have. It's a great way to relax those aching muscles and have a hot spring bath. This ryokan has 4 onsen: an indoor and an outdoor pool, and the male and female area are separate.
Indoor onsen pool
My Okaasan was so considerate to leave me alone in the onsen since this will be my first time. She doesn't want to shock me. An onsen is a public bath area where you have to get naked! She let me have the onsen on my own and she went after I did. Luckily, there was not a lot of guests that time and I was able to enjoy the onsen alone. I even went to the outdoor one all naked! I felt so free looking at the snow mountain with no clothes! Until a mother and kid came in and I got shy. I just dipped myself in the water.
Wait, No Bed?
Now time for bed. But where's the bed? The tatami mat floor covering does look comfortable but it wouldn't be so soft. Turns out, we have to set aside the small table. This is just the day table or if you want to have your tea and you set it aside come bed time. Inside the cabinet is where the mattress is which is called a futon. This is spread over the tatami mat flooring. This was so Japanese and I love it! I only saw this in movies.
The Futon set and Yukata
There's TV too
We were also provided with soft slippers and Japanese style robes called Yukata. It's the Japanese version of pyjamas and is way more comfortable in the cold weather. It is far from a formal Kimono which can be worth millions of Japanese Yen! But I really liked the experience of wearing it and made me feel like I'm a local for a night.
My only photo of the futon bedding with the semi-anonymous me!
Enough of the tour for now. Good night! :)