We had another treasured 2 days off back on February 11 &12 due the Japanese holiday Foundation Day, which is basically the day Japan became Japan, but is not treated quite like July 4th (less displays of patriotism). So we jumped on a 2.5 hour bus and found ourselves back in the Japanese Alps, this time in Shin Hotaka. We originally tried to go here last month when we were visiting Takayama. But due to the bad weather we decided to wait for a better day, this time around we got incredibly lucky and had the most beautiful blue bird day!
Shin Hotaka is the gateway to some serious backcountry exploration during all seasons, that being winter snowshoeing, back country skiing, summer backpacking or climbing. Since we were on a time crunch and could only spend a mere 36 hours in this area we weren’t able to do any snowshoeing hut trips but will definitely be back in the summer for a bit of backpacking! Fortunately for us this area caters to many different interests and energy levels. No matter what your chosen activity is going to be you start by boarding 2 different tramways to get to the top of the mountain range. Shin Hotaka is famed for its unique ropeway in which it offers a doubledecker tram and has a pretty significant elevation gain not to mention an incredible 360 degree view of the mountains.
Upon arriving at the top we checked out the incredible view and breathed in some fresh crisp mountain air. We did some snow hiking just to play in the snow a little and boy was it refreshing! So many people in Nagoya say they don’t like nature, which is hard to believe because every time I find myself in mother nature’s playground I feel like my battery for life is being recharged!
After a beautiful day of exploring the top of the world we headed back down to the little town of Okuhida where we checked into our very first Ryokan! A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese style hotel. Not really knowing what to expect for quality we decided to spend more than we normally would on accommodation. When staying at a Ryokan meals are usually included, and priced per person. So, for 2 people, 1 night including dinner and an onsen we paid 140,000 yen which is basically $140. Plus, it was basically Valentines Day weekend and this was our gift to each other and ourselves! We stayed at Kazeya which is a small Ryokan near the ropeway that was renovated in 2014. It included both a communal and private Onsen. It was AMAZING! Obviously since it was our first time at a Ryokan we might be a little biased. If you know me..then you know I secretly want to be a travel critic…hence the blog, and Kazeya recieved 5 stars from me!
Upon checking in we received green tea, and was then given a tour of the Ryokan. We chose what we wanted for dinner as well as our dinner time and were shown to our room. Our room had an amazing view of the mountains and was huge! Our favorite part of the experience was the traditional Yukatas that we were given to wear around the Inn. You are expected to wear them to/from the onsen and to meal time! Not the most fashionable of clothing choices (Mike disagrees), but seriously comfortable. We immediately checked out the private outdoor couples onsen and had a nice relaxing soak before dinner. Dinner might have been the highlight of our trip. It was very traditional and extremely delicious! We ordered chicken saute and along with that we received 5-6 other little dishes. Every bite was so flavorful and the presentation was beautiful.
The next morning we had another soak in the onsen before checking out and then made our way to 2 more local onsens! Thats right day 2 was all about onsen soaking! The first one we went to was the Shinhotaka onsen located outside along a river. Since it was during the daytime and it was a rotenburo (mixed out in the open Onsen where they required females to wear towel wraps). You can usually rent one for 500 yen. Thew view from the onsen was beautiful and it had a great natural feeling to it! In the summer you can go back and forth between the actual river and the onsen. The only downside was that there were no shower facilities unless you were staying at the hotel next door.
Next up was a free onsen in the Hirayu hot spring resort. It was included in our ropeway/bus ticket so we had to check it out. It was an onsen inside a hotel so nothing too special but it was free and had showers that we could use to freshen up with. Once finished we boarded our bus to Takayama to have some Hida Beef Ramen before heading home to Nagoya. Another successful weekend for the books!