Completely switching off from the world around you is a near impossible task. The answer is a small town set amongst snow capped mountains near Mt Fuji filled with natural hot springs. Kaga Onsen is the one place disconnected enough from the world that you can find real tranquility. The people in Japan have remarkable appreciation for nature and simplicity. The way food is presented, rooms decorated and buildings laid out, show the perfection in each and every detail.
The nature of a hot spring is ‘fuekiryuko’ one of the teachings of Matsuo Basho, which states that the source of immortality and fluidity are the same.
Reportedly the hot springs were discovered by monks 1300 years ago and since have become a favourite activity to locals and visitors alike. You might be rattled to learn that women and men bathe completely nude in public baths; with a lone towel to keep the stream from your eyes. It’s really offensive to wear a swimsuit but comforting to know that its perfectly acceptable to look the way you do, after all its natural. There are often separate times for men and women to take their precious soak but if you are not that culturally brave there are hotels you can stay at that come with your own private onsen.
Beniya Mykau is one of the hotels that includes your own private onsen through the shower in your room. Filled natural mineral water believed to have healing properties in either granite or marble base. To keep the water as pure as possible the Japanese wash on stools with invigorating natural brushes to get any dirt off your body before stepping into the onsen.
It is truly luxurious to sip sake in a floating cypress tree bucket and glance at the trees surrounding you. There would’t be much competition to find a faster way to come away fully recharged that spending a weekend in these remote mountains enjoying onsen, yoga, fine dining and nature walks.
The hotels are very good at receiving guest and you are picked up by the hotel shuttle from the train station and greeted with fragrant juices. They will explain how things work like wearing a provided Yukata and Japanese thongs at dinner. You will quickly see there are some definite things you can and cannot do but strangely the limits are quite comforting in a new experience.
Participating in a Japanese tea ceremony is quite special as that is traditionally were all walks of life gather to share something simple. The tea is always a powdery green tea whisked in a bamboo brush and poured with the utmost care. Its interesting to watch the order and how the tea is poured slowly.
Visiting the small towns is really where you can see the rich cultural history and tradition of Japan that would otherwise be crowed out in the larger cities.
The food in Japan is out of this world and being adventurous to try new things will be rewarded by discovering unexpected things that you actually like. Its quite fun to get out of your comfort zone and challenge what you are accustomed to. You will thoroughly enjoy the abundance of fresh seafood and all the little treats wrapped up in special little packages.
Its easy to get to Kaga Onsen by train in Japan where trains are not comparable to other countries. If you have seen the movie Hunger Games, they even have luxury carriages with bars similar to the film. They are also national treasures and used by everyone so you will feel right at home. What’s nice is they offer beer and wine or even bento boxes by staff coming around with their service trolleys. Its easy to pick up something delicious in the convenience store before you board also and the selection is often better. You do have to book your seat and visiting a Japan Rail office will make sure you are set for your journey.
Blissful luxury at Beniya Mykau ($1000 pn)
Most natural hot spring in ultimate luxury at Araya Totan ($1000 pn)
Everything that you need at Hatori ($200 pn)
Eat at your hotel as the rates include breakfast and dinner
Hire a car and drive if you are really brave