We said our goodbyes and thanked the lady who owned the ryokan in Morioka for her hospitality and for our comfortable tatami room in her lovely place.
In a generous spirit, she gave us gifts upon our departure.
To me she presented a coin-purse, which doubles as a tissue holder, which her friend handmade and dyed in a blue indigo butterfly pattern.
To Jules she gave a toiletry bag, which was hand made from the kimono fabric of her departure mother.
She said that her mother passed away at the age of 94 and that to cherish and to share her memory, she had sewn some bags from her kimono.
Both of us were very touched by her generosity and by the very personal gifts she presented to us.
We bowed to her and thanked her a dozen times.
The sun was shining again and the weather forecast promised a whole week of nothing but sunshine….. Awesome!
Initially, it seemed like there was a lot of coordination to line up for our new destination in the mountainous area of Nyuto Onsen.
First we needed to walk to the Morioka JR station and find our train.
We needed to take the Shinkansen Super- Express train towards Akita and Tokyo, and to get off at the Tazawako station.
From there we needed to walk to the bus depot and to catch a local bus named Ugo Kotsu Busu, to the Nyuto Onsen area.
We must get off at a stop named Arupa Komakusa, and from there, our Onsen, named Yamanoyado, would send their shuttle bus to pick us up.
We were told that the bus runs only once per hour, and that we must call them when we arrive at the train station, to let them know which Ugo Kotsu Busu we will be taking.
Sounds complicated right?
Well it wasn’t at all…
It was a breeze….
The Morioka Train station was clean and well organized, and while we were waiting to the train, I bought some healthy local sesame crackers, which were delicious.
These crackers were invented hundreds of years ago, by an Edo Period Samurai who while escaping from his enemies, took some sesame and rice flour, and baked these crackers inside his metal helmet over an open fire.
The Shinkansen bullet train looks very futuristic, and the announcements were made in perfect English, not just in Japanese.
Our Tazawako stop was only 30 minutes from Morioka.
We disembarked the train into the sleepy and beautiful little town of Tazawako, and a very helpful lady at the information center, plied us with an English map and sights to see in the area.
The “Bus Depot” was nothing more than three tiny bus stops, with a small ticket booth staffed by a nervous and friendly young man who was very eager to help us.
While we were waiting for the red bus, I called our Onsen Yamanoyado, and with a little Japanese and some friendly help on the other end of the line, I explained that we will be arriving on the 12:15 bus.
The Ugo-Katsu bus, was a cute red bus with pink seats that drove slowly up the steep Mountains.
The driver nodded his head when I told him our stop, and I felt like an idiot for buying into logistic nervousness and a desire to make sure that everything will always go according to plan… After all, things are SO easy,… And there is NEVER a reason for nervousness or to be anxious in the first place…..help is always there and if you take things with humor and gentleness, things are always easy and fluid…
The ride in the red and pink bus was enjoyable as it meandered slowly along the Tazawako lake, the rivers and the forests.
At our bus stop, another friendly bus driver nodded to me to come on board his shuttle bus.
He recognized us immediately…. were not just the only foreigners around, we were the only guests going to the Onsen at this time.
When the bus pulled into our Onsen, my heart leaped with joy.
What a beautiful place and what an amazing setting…. Right in the middle of the forest on the foothills of the slopes of a ski resort…
Since we arrived early, our room was not yet ready, so we had a lovely lunch of soba noodles with radish and mushrooms, at the Onsen’s restaurant.
We got a lovely room at the edge of the forest, and we were offered to upgrade our room for no extra charge to the area with the newer rooms.
But even though the newer rooms looked shinier, we chose to stay in the quiet older room, which was most picturesque with a thatched roof and watercolor paintings on the rice paper door.
I even saw some tourists taking their photo in front of our room, which is in a separate building with only one other room adjacent to it.
Yamanoyado, is the “newer” wing to this older and very famous Onsen Tsurunoyu Onsen.
We were told that we are most welcomed to use the hot baths in the older Tsurunoyu Onsen.
Our Onsen offers a free shuttle bus which takes only five minutes, or we were told that we could walk there through the forest, or follow the road that connected the two Onsens.
We took our towels, and some toiletries and I borrowed some plastic open toe sandals from the Onsen, and we decided to walk through the forest.
I guess that we should have asked how do you spell the name “Tsurunoyu Onsen” in Kanji Japanese….
Because almost immediately we got lost in the forest.
We ended up following a sign that led to a cliff with an overview of a waterfall and the river below.
It was beautiful, but it was not the famous Tsurunoyu Onsen we were going to bathe in..
The forest was swarming with mosquitos, and the forest floor was muddy and full of fallen leaves.
At one point, I realized that we forgot to take with us our bathing suits, so we could use the beautiful outdoor open air baths.
But because we had already walked too far from our room, we just agreed to use the indoors baths where men and women bathe separately.
Further along the path, I spotted a large slithering snake, crossing the path before me.
Suddenly the forest did not seem so benign…and since I was walking in my open plastic sandals, I paid more attention to where I put my feet.
Mosquitos were flying into my eyes and zooming all around me.
The MIRACLE was, that we exited the forest and arrived at the Heavenly Tsuronoyo, without ONE mosquito bite between us.
I was wondering how did that happen….
Did we temporarily have higher vibrations, in which the Mosquitos did not see us just as walking bags of yummy blood and did not attack us?….. Or were the Mosquitos just stunned at the two idiots who wandered into the forest….
After all, I can guarantee you that not very often people did choose this path over taking the shuttle or walking on the direct path.
By the time we finally entered the most beautiful grounds of Tsurunoyu Onsen, I was totally taken by the beauty of the place.
The Tsurunoyu Onsen is over 400 years old.
Some say that it was originally used as a private retreat by lords since the year 1628.
There are records of the general public coming here for healing and rejuvenation, starting in the year 1688.
It is one of the oldest and most charming and atmospheric hot spring places I have EVER seen
(and I have seen many, since I am addicted to Onsens).
If a Western person who is not an Onsen Connoisseur comes to this place, he might not see its poetic beauty.
And a few people who wrote reviews of it on some traveling websites, totally missed the magic and uniqueness of this place.
The Tsurunoyu Onsens have a special and original recipe cuisine, with special dishes and soups that are unique only to this place.
In their cooking, they utilize local and special mountain vegetables, as well as fish from the nearby river, and use methods of cooking that are fitted to the cold mountain climate.
I did not need to worry about not brining a bathing suit with me…
The open air baths had a posted sign asking you NOT to wear any bathing suit, as not to contaminate the water by possible fabric softener and synthetic materials.
For me, this was even more Heavenly…. I love our God given birthday-suit, which is nudity with only our bare skins, and I find that it is very freeing to enjoy Nature while naked.
The open air baths are beautiful, with mineral deposits of white sulfur on the nearby rocks and steam swirling up into the air…. I could imagine how wonderful it must be during the wintertime….
You could ski during the day, eat fabulous food and soak under the stars and the snow in the hot baths….
Tsurunoyu Onsen derives its name from the fact that a local hunter saw a crane (“Tsuru” in Japanese) entering the hot springs and healing its wounds in the waters.
Jules and I enjoyed soaking in the open baths.
On the rock wall by the bath, I saw a very long snake sunning himself.
It was about two meters long and it crawled back into the hole in the rock after awhile.
The grounds of the Tsurunoyu onsen seemed busy with guests and with friendly staff members preparing for the evening meal.
It was time to go back and enjoy a wonderful meal by a campfire in our Onsen.
I love being in such a remote and soulful place.
A place in which the tradition is to come for rest, to relax and to enjoy the healing vibrations of nature and good intentions….
The food is so wholesome and the people are so friendly, centered and helpful…
Staying at the foothills surrounded with dozens of mountains, hearing the many rivers and the creeks…. The sound of the forest through the open window…..
This place has a very relaxed and wholesome energy, and I feel it seeping into me…