Tuesday 16th October
Good American Breakfast to start the day, at least how the Japanese see it. Juice, yoghurt to which you add your own amount of fruit compote, salad, eggs (fried, scrambled of omelette) ham or sausages, toast and croissant and coffee. If I haven't said it before, I love this coffee and liquid cream. Great start to the morning and even managed to time a lift into the station on the free hotel shuttle bus. Local bus times are not tourist friendly with the first one 7:20am and then not until 11:30am.
At the train station, the lady at the bus ticket booth started to answer our enquiry then shot out of her booth indicating for us to follow. Across was the information centre and she talked to another lady in Japanese before leaving us with her. We had obviously exhausted her English ability. The other lady explained that the bus we wanted to catch needed a connecting free shuttle bus to pick us up but it did not run at the time on the schedule. So we needed to catch a later bus and then the shuttle would pick us up. So we had an hour to fill in, which gave us the opportunity to have a good look at the Iris museum,on the mezzanine floor of the train station. We wandered around listening to Big Bang's theme song for the movie Iris, looking at props and film clips from the movie, happily snapping away. Wasn't till we walked out that I saw the no camera sign, oops bit late now. Bought a few Iris souvenirs. Lady was quite interested where we came from and that we knew about this drama and then gave us a couple of Iris museum freebies. Well we were happy.
Bus for the Nyuto Hot Spring Village arrived 10:50am to take us to Arupa Komakusa. A man, who we found was from Tokyo, happily chatted to us about where we were going and showed pictures on his camera of where he had been. It was a short wait at Arupa Komakusa for the shuttle bus to Tsurunoyu Hot Springs, the oldest onsen in Nyuto. Chatted to a girl from Thailand who spoke a bit of Japanese, her boyfriend is Japanese but working so she's travelling around by herself, another Iris fan. It was about a ten minute ride and the were film billboards about the Iris movie around the place as it had been used in the movie also. The onsen was used in the movie as a date scene where Hyun Joon and Seung Hee are surprised to find that this onsen lets men and women bathe together. The hots springs also offers accommodation (I tried to book here but could only get one night when I needed two) and the ryokan is in the movie where Hyun Joon hides after escaping from Hungary becomes friends with the young local girl.
Ok, movie trivia finished. It was 500 yen each for the onsen and we headed off to the mix facility. Most onsens we have come across are same sex so this was a good opportunity for us to enjoy together. This was our first onsen and there wasn't a look of information around but I had read up and knew you need to wash before entering the onsen. There were separate changing rooms and as I started to undress I realised we didn't have towels. I tried to enquire from another woman about her towel but only got back that it was her own towel. So redressing I went back to the payment counter and hired two towels. As I came back I passed the other lady leaving and she acknowledge that I had now got my towels. Back in the wash area I soaped up and dipped my ladle I the water and threw it on me only to discover that it was cold water. One tub has the hot spring water and the other cold and you mix it in your ladle accordingly. Lucky it was the cold one and not the hot that I threw on me.
Cleaned, I entered the first onsen area which was for women only. Three women were there and one baby. As I passed I checked that it was a mixed onsen next door. A couple of them gasped that I was going through but the other one nodded and said yes, mixed. I entered water and was submerged before I reached the men soaking, the only female. But not to be outdone, the others followed through, much to the disappointed of the baby's father as mum promptly gave him the baby and continued with her soaking. It was very pleasant.
When I returned through to the women's only onsen, the other women were getting dressed so once they had left I took the opportunity for a few photos, not in the mixed section though, don't think the men would have been pleased. Missed the return shuttle by a minute, if that, so had to wait another hour so that put paid to going to look at the dam and left us in limbo as we would have 3 hours to wait until our shuttle ride back to the hotel. So we got off the bus at the Lake Tazawa shops and proceeded to walk the 10 km back to the hotel.
We passed a restaurant called Orae, which looked like a local brewery with three large copper stills in a side window. Deciding to stop for lunch and a beer we were surprised to find it was another movie location where Hyun Joon and Seung Hee had eaten and drank local beer. The movie stills and table setting by the window were still set up. We ordered the beers that they had, Chris the local beer, Kohan-no-Mori and me the Komachi lager. Along with a couple of pizzas, it was a delightful break. While we were eating several other visitors stopped for photo opportunities. Considering the movie was made 2009, it's good to see its still bringing in the tourists. As we paid the bill we were asked where we were from.
Very scenic walk back, almost got to hotel, 1km to go, when the hotel shuttle passed us. Chris flagged it down and he let us on but he was going to the station anyway to pick up one other. So we hopped off and finished our trek.
Three other couples in the dining room tonight. All having the Japanese meal apart from one Japanese couple where she had the Japanese meal and he the Western, like us. Would love to have known why.