Aug 28, 2009

Aug 13 : Kumonotaira - Takamagahara Onsen : Northern Japanese Alps

Rain started before the dawn. According to the weather forecast, it would be rainy all day. No view of mountains. Not fun to go to a hike on such a day. But what to do in the wet camp site? Would be depressing. It was a good opportunity to go to Takamagahara Hot spring. It was also a good timing. 5 days on the trail without a bath of course. Onsen (Hot spring)! Fascinating word.

Started to Takama-ga-hara (Field of High Heaven) in rain about 9. It should take 3 hours.
From Kumo-no-taira (Plateau of Cloud), going to descend 400m to north.
Got hailed on at Corona Ridge. Windy. Foggy. Poor visibility. I imagined how it could be on higher ridges when it stormed. I was remembering the accident in Mt. Tomuraushi in Hokkaidou. The last July, 10 people died in stormy mountains. That shocking news made people aware of the risk of hypothermia.

Got into the forest. Sheltered. Felt safer. Steadily went down the muddy trail.

Takamagahara Moor

Ryuushou-ike (Dragon-sparkle Pond)

Gentian flowers open only when it's sunny

Hot spring of Takamagahara by Onsenzawa river

Simple roofs and walls of bathhouses. One was for women the other was for both. The other side of the river, a couple of outdoor baths just by the river. They were very attractive. Cozy handmade rock work bath tabs. Sulfur spring water was milk-white. Good temperature. But unlike men, didn't feel like walking around naked, even though it wouldn't be complained. Just used women's bath.
Getting rainwater, the bath became tepid. I had a long bath. Massaged legs. Washed my hair without soap. Had beer (bought at the lodge). Warmed up too enough, put on a shirt(wet already with sweat and I wanted to wash) and rain pants (would get dry soon) then went out to the river. Dipped into the stream to the head. Just for 3 seconds. The water was so cold and running fast.
A young man who got out of an outdoor bath and walked to the bridge was watching it and talked to me, "Isn't it cold?". Me:"Of course!". He came down to the river and dipped his toe. He:"Cold! I can't swim!". Me:"Ha,ha. First, you should warm up in the hot water enough".
It could be a weired scene. A totally soaked woman with dripping hair, wearing sopping-wet clothes, who was sitting on a riverside rock and a naked man with a piece of cloth standing on the other side of the river. And it was by a public trail. Fully dressed hikers could whenever pass by, though actually 99% of them would undress soon for onsen. Those men at the onsen, include him, just covered their front with towels in hands and didn't bother with their butts. So they were walking around outside with their bare butts. I was embarrassed and tried not to see him. But his tightly curled black hair and very well tanned and red face was impressive. I remembered him (and his girlfriend who was in the women's bath. I talked with her too.) when we met a few days later.

Once I get in an onsen, I will never get out within 2 hours. In Takamagahara onsen too, I repeated hot-cold bathing cycle three times, went up to see women's outdoor bath, tried it, washed cloth and rinsed it in the river.
Finally I finished. It was about for 3 hours. Gorgeous way of using time of a rainy day. Then went to see Ryuushou-ike pond. Came back to onsen. I wanted to take photos of bath tabs. But there was somebody dipping in women's bath. Gave up photos. And outdoor baths too. I noticed a man who was taking photos of himself. He set his camera on the tripod then went back to the bath, got out of the bath, adjusted something with the camera, went back to the bath again...and so on. He must be a blogger, I was sure. Again, I tried not to see him and his bare butts and not to aim my camera at his direction. Then I gave up to take photos of outdoor baths.

Takamagahara Lodge

The building was tilted a lot. Inside of it, they said there was no flat floor. The capacity was 50 people for staying but there were about 100 people at the day. 2 sets of futons for 3 people, they expressed so. Not too bad, considering it was in the hight season and rainy, means there were several parties who gave up to depart and decided to stay one more night.
Their meals had a good reputation. Actually it was great. I heard exclamations from several tables. It was indeed moving to have such a good meal in such a remote place where just to come straight takes two days at shortest. I liked vegetable tempura. Soba was tasty too. And fresh tofu! (wasn't too heavy to carry? )

At the terrace, some people were cooking. A party was staying there for tow nights because of the rain. Another party was those who I passed by on the way from Kumonotaira. I had lodge's dinner but wanted to heat up rice leftover and some food before they went bad. A man was interested in my alcohol stove. Made from small aluminium beer cans. 8g. I brought it for the side trip. He prepared several dishes with canned, retort and dry food. kind of gorgeous as an instant dinner. Next of him, his friend was cooking maximum volume of rice in a cooker. It was his main dish. He just ate a lot of rice with a cup of curry soup. A kind of typical mountain stoic. Contrasting guys. They were traveling along the ridge called "Ura-Ginza". At that day, they descended several hundred meters for onsen and were climbing back 800m to the main ridge at the next day. Sounded tough.
We spent fun time but didn't talk a lot of ourselves. Just enjoyed sharing the place and time there. As usually people who happened to meet in a mountain lodge do. One of them were from Hokkaido. We talked about mountains in Hokkaido a bit. Talked abut the accident in Mt. Tomuraushi a bit. I sipped red wind in Platypus, looked like a blood bad for transfusion. They sipped whiskey. Then talked about the weather of tomorrow.
The lights-out time was 8 o'clock. Said good night and good bye. Of course I didn't know I was meeting them again.

The second floor was one large tatami room and already packed with people and their bads and stuff. My bed was at a corner. Even to go to the toilet, had to stride over people. Many of them were already asleep. It was the first time for me to stay in a overloaded mountain lodge. Wasn't too bad as I wrote. My body didn't touch the next person. That was enough. Lay down and fell asleep soon. Slept well. Didn't wake up till 4 am. Marvelous.

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