Holiday Trip with Family (Part 1)

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Holiday Trip with Family


Japan Hour:

Holiday Trip with Family (Part 1)

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This week, we will take various bus trips with family and friends. First up is a tour around Yamagata in winter. We start by travelling on the Yamagata Shinkansen and a local bus for three hours from Tokyo to the Zaou Bus Terminal. We then ride on the Zaou Cable Car to see rime ice, a natural phenomenon found in the mountains of Zaou during winter.

It occurs when misty wind below 0 degrees Celsius blows through the needle-like leaves of conifer trees and becomes frozen water droplets. The snow frozen on the trees creates a beautiful winter sight.

We then take a break at a restaurant near the mountain top, where we order some Tama Konnyaku skewers. We make our way down the mountain and explore Zaou Onsen, strolling along Takayu Street. We soak in an outdoor hot spring bath called Genshichi no Yu which commands a beautiful view of the snow. Later, we try Zaou’s famous grilled mutton in one of the many restaurants in the hot spring town.

Our next stop is Ginzan Onsen, located in the middle of the quiet snowy mountains. After checking out a scenic hot spring bath, we walk around the town. On both sides of the Ginzan River are wooden hotels built in the Taisho and early Showa era. Ginzan Onsen was named as such because it was near Nobesawa Ginzan, where silver was mined after the Muromachi era. After it closed down in the mid-Edo era, it became a hot spring resort.

We check into Kosekiya Bekkan. It began as a hot spring hotel under the same name in the Edo era and the current building was built in the Taisho era. Guests at this hotel can use the hot spring in Ginzansou, an affiliated hotel, for free. There is also a hot spring bath in Yukimino yu along the river. For dinner, we order the set meal, which features 14 dishes such as Yamagata’s famous stewed potato, anglerfish hot pot and Yamagata black beef.

For our next bus trip, we will travel from the historical castle town of Odawara to Hakone, Atami and Ito. At Hakone, we visit Lake Ashinoko, situated at the skirt of Mt. Fuji. We then take a boat to the other side of the lake and drop by Hakone Shrine. We also go to Kuzuryu Shrine. It enshrines a dragon and many people come here to pray for a happy marriage and good fortune.

After Lake Ashinoko, we head to Yunohanasawa Onsen, located at the highest altitude among the 17 famous hot springs in Hakone. We relax in an outdoor milky bath at an altitude of 936m. Next, we travel by bus for about an hour to Atami Station. We explore the area around the station and buy some dried fish such as red snapper and horse mackerel as souvenirs. We then have to walk up a steep hill to our hotel for the night, Shin Kadoya, which has a history of 124 years. However, the current hotel was built in 1951 on the site of the second house of the former prime minister Ichiro Hatoyama. It has a hot spring with its own water source. For dinner, we feast on a full-course Kaiseki meal, with items like barracuda sashimi and Daisen chicken hot pot.

The next morning, before checking out, we try the hotel’s famous outdoor Tenku Buro bath. Then we go to Atami Station and travel by local train to Ito. It is lunchtime when we arrive and we want to have beef for lunch. We call up a restaurant and are pleasantly surprised when the restaurant sends a Rolls-Royce to pick us up from Ito Station. The owner, Mr Kanai, has been running sushi restaurants in Ito and Odawara for 20 years. He opened this steak house last August. He recommends trying the low-fat Izu beef, known for its lean meat, so we order the set lunch which comes with salad and grilled vegetables.

1) Grilled mutton is a popular dish in Zaou Onsen
2) Guests at some hot spring hotels can use other baths in nearby affiliated hotels for free