Uhhhh – i need to cut my story shorter – otherwise will be almost 30 posts just about this trip. I mean i could easily write more – more advices, more feelings, vibes, cultural stuff but … if anyone particulary interested i can write in private. Now im trying to focus on cities instead of days a spent there. See how it goes… lol
So after my first day in Tokyo was heading to catch the speedy train to Nagano. As i mentioned before – u have the pass so u dont need to pay for the ticket just need to have it in your hand and depending on your train – reserving seats. So Tokyo main station is massive – probably same size like my hometown Bekescsaba. It did take me like 40 minutes just to find out where do i need to go to get the train (asking numerous station employees) – so think ahead and give some extra time. Trains ARE ON TIME. They are not late. Not even 1 single minute.
footnote: just a quick one – there are 5 different ‘Shinkansens’ – bullet trains working. Only difference is in the service – mainly the speed. If u have JRP u have access to all except the 2 fastest one – Nozomi and Mizuho (approx 270km/hour) – unless u want to buy separate ticket if u keen on. I ve seen one – it is truly unbelivable.
So i ve got on a train – 90 minutes ride. Tried my first ‘nori triangles’ for breakfast as i was starving at this point. Hm… usually dont have in mind eating seaweed with shrimps for breakfast but well. I had a promise to try everything. It def wasnt bad. The journey could have been longer as i enjoyed the view crossing hills straight to the Japan Alps. Exciting. If i forgot to mentions, the temperature in Tokyo was amazingly nice, almost 20 degrees and lucky sunshine. On the way to Nagano the temperature dropped down and clouds were coming over. Less welcoming.
Arriving on time to Nagano- plan slightly changed – while some elder gentlemen was explaining me outside of the station that the bus im looking for does not exist anymore. So got back to another train to get to Ljama where finally i could take a special bus to Nozawa Onsen.
footnote: Onsen is a natural spring (thanx to volcanic activity) when hot water is bubbling to the surface containing lots of healthy minerals. Locals turned this simple act of bathing into the country’s religion – not just the idea of clean your body and soul but also a great social activity to wash your stress away. U can find onsens literally everywhere.
Nozawa Onsen is a proper ski paradise. A tiny little village on a bottom of a mountain. I ve never been skiing so for me a place like this was absolutely new. Hidden in the mountain between the clouds was still heavily snowing. Plus it was the perfect example of a traditional onsen town – natural baths were everywhere. Some of them for free – some of them to pay and some of them only for locals (myth is that these are sooo hot that only locals can stand it). And the village itself was hidden and calm- still very very noisy for no other reason but the water channel system was running all over under the town. Non stop. Not just for the melting snow on the top of the mountain but also the onsen spring water was navigated properly through these channels. Hard to imagine by description but its a really pretty atmosphere: hot water running under, steam is dancing from the ground and white snowcaps at the background. Such a vibe.
OK so i arrived, my Chef friend Paco was waiting for me – he was so sweet and let me sleep at his place in his room for 2 nights. Pretty shitty place to be fair – a big green ‘dome’ on the top of the hill, separated to lots of rooms, no proper walls, no windows, everything made from paper and this light pressed corkwood style of panels. U hear everything, u smell everything, u feel everything around u. But i guess it was supercheap. I was very thankful anyway – even the window and the door made from paper (with several holes on it lol) but i found a little electric heater – just enough not to let me die. I was never been happier for my superwarm sleeping bag at this point. Overall – great feeling of freedom. Plus my first onsen experience – cherry on the top.
footnote: in some Onsens tattoos are strictly prohibited – luckily i had no problem here. Mostly because i hardly met anyone in there. U might not going to belive me – but all around my journey i met only one single ‘not asian’ women inside the onsen – she was from Australia, it happened in Amanohashidate and the reason could be that we both stayed in this very traditional (my most expensive) Ryokan and the place had a very own little private natural onsen pool in the building. So it was part of the package i guess. Only time in my several bath experience – other times i ve been surrounded with Japanese women enjoying there ceremony and social gathering (and being very fucking curious about my tattoos btw).
I finished my first night with an amazing dinner – i ve got a special invitation to a lovely Japanese style restaurant where my friend Paco was doing a collaboration with another very talented spanish chef, Julen doing an amazing degustation menu. It def needs another post because the whole menu is well worths to discuss about. Lets just say – was best ending of a day. LOL.