Today I will leave the old Japan (Ainokura and Kisodani) and enter the modern Japan (Tokyo). The only question is where I stop today. Inuyama part 2? Hmm. I don’t want to go back. Matsumoto is not really on my way to Tokyo and the castle is closed today. Nagano? Maybe there is snow. It would be simple to travel from there to Tokyo. Nagano is connected by Shinkansen. Lucky that I decided for the complete JRP. This would me give the change to bring the thank-you-letter to Kiso-Fukushima. I have to change there anyway.
Breakfast is at 8am. Then a short taxi ride to the train station of Nagiso. It is raining and all the snow is gone. Lucks like I was lucky again. It is difficult to deliver the letter. The language barrier is working again. All the words I need are not really part of a basic Japanese class. Who is learning “The station officer who was on duty yesterday”.
Here in Kiso-Fukushima the decision is made. The Ltd. Express to Nagano needs 90 minutes and departures soon. So Nagano it is. Then I have a crazy idea. Shibu Onsen. It was my plan to return in 2014 (my 2004 reloaded plan), but it also was an idea to visit Shibu via Kusatsu. This idea I had to gave up because the pass is closed.
In Nagano I check the time. 90 minutes until the last reasonable train to Shibu. This should be enough for a brief visit at the Zenko-ji, the big temple von Nagano. I store my luagage at the train station.
Hm. Thereis no snow in Nagano. There was less and les during the train ride. Strange. The olympic winter games took place here in 1998. The temple is not as impressive as in 2004. May be temple overdose. Or a Japan overdose? There is a pathway underneath the temple. Completely dark. But tiem is too short. I will write this on my 2004 plan.
I hurry back to the train station. Departure at 3pm. The train is called Snow Monkey. It is funny how they pronounce the name: “Snoo Moonkii”. The way is totally different from what I remember. Wasn’t there a change in direction? In Yudanaka a known picture. Total Recall. Maybe I can visit the Monkeys. The taxi arrives the entrance at 4:25pm. That was close. But too late. I forgot that there is an additional 1.5 miles walk thru the forrest. This is not possible in 5 minuntes.
Even here in the mountains is not much snow. Some ice on the street is the evidence that it was snowing a few days ago. Now it is rainung. This is Inuyama all over again. I walk back to the city. I need some onsen. I check the next souvenir shop for the stamp towel. While I pay for the towel I learn that the key to the onsen is only for hotel guests of Shibu and Yudanaka with a vaild ticket. Damned. I totally forgot about that.
But the shop keeper is nice. I can enter bath #9 on the other side of the street. Ohh boy. This was worth the trip. After the cold rain the onsen is like heaven. It is so relaxing. Exactly like I remember. The wood in the onsen is old and partly black. The moisture is take its toll. The water is brown and opaque. I can smell sulfur. This is nothing you would show or describe in a travelguide. But it is so relaxing.
Shibu Onsen Gallery
It is my plan to take picture of all 9 onsen. It is raining cats and dogs. I mount the umbrella on my backpack to have two free hands for my camera. Then I try something: I have a towel around my neck and the stamp towel at my backpack. Beside the missing Yukata I look like a hotel guest. I just wait for a guest with a key and enter the onsen. This is totally against the rules and a little bit dangerous. But I want to have this towel. I could just put the stamps on it but this towel has to be real. I want to have some good memory of this day.
I can enter all nine onsen. In the meantime it got dark. And I still have to go back to Nagano and further to Tokyo. I walk back to Yudanaka. The way is longer than I remember. A quick picture of Uotoshi Ryokan for my collection. Looks like the Dining With does not exist anymore.
I need 90 minutes for the short distance to Nagano and another 120 minutes for the long way to Tokyo. The speed difference between a local train and the shinkansen cannot be more obvious. I arrive Ueno late in the evening. The wheels of my trolley are finished. After the check-in I take a short stroll to the Amusement district. Back in modern Tokyo. It is much warmer than in Nagano. And it isn’t raining.
[Update: In the following clip you will not see much of Shibu Onsen but listen: This is the sound of an japaense onsen in summer time.]