Hirayu Onsen – Day 1
While Ann was in Japan, we took a trip to Hirayu Onsen, way up in the mountains of Gifu. February is pretty heavy on the snow side of things, but extremely light on the tourist side of things, so a lot of the hot springs in the mountains have killer deals, especially during the week. We took advantage of that and booked an overnight package for 2 for cheaper than a night out drinking. But there’s always a catch.
This time, the catch was actually getting to Takayama. There is a bus that leaves from Nanba, 6 hours to the spot, 5000 a person, which is cheap. Unfortunately they were sold out for that day, so we were left to the trains. The trains were faster, and more comfortable, but more expensive. Our route was:
Tsuruhashi to Nagoya on Kintetsu (1hr 30min)
Nagoya to Takayama on JR (2hr)
Takayama to Hirayu Onsen by bus (45min)
So it was shorter, but we had a couple of transfers. It was an easy trip though.
Hints of snow while on the way to Nagoya
Ann on Kintetsu
In Nagoya, picked up a miso-katsu bento from the department store while we waited for our transfer.
Getting a little snowier.
Heading deeper into the mountains.
The JR train was full when we boarded at Nagoya, but halfway to Takayama it was almost empty. We kept going deeper into the mountains and it would get snowier and snowier. Of course I forgot to charge my camera, and I didn’t bring the charger, so I was stuck using my cell phone for pictures the entire time.
When we arrived in Takayama it was snowing pretty hard as it was pretty high up in the mountains, but our onsen was even deeper still, and we had a bus ride ahead of us.
The bus ride started off normal enough.
But being cold-as-shit, things got steamy pretty quickly.
People started getting off along the way, and again Ann and I were left alone on the bus as it creeped up the icy mountain towards Hirayu. It was a little unnerving when everyone got off after 15 minutes and we still had a half hour ahead of us.
We finally arrived at Hirayu Onsen and it was deserted. We walked around the town and didn’t see another soul besides the person running the souvenir shop. It probably didn’t help that the snow was knee high, but it was eerie. Our ryokan turned out to be pretty huge. It had several stories, and an annex with even more. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had 150 rooms. But again, besides Ann and me, there were only 2 other groups there. Another couple, and a family of 3. Throw in the manager and 5 girls in kimono, and I’m wondering how this place stays in business during the winter. I personally think winter is the best month to go to a hot spring. Especially “rotenburo” or outdoor bath. This place had 3 outdoor baths; 2 that switched between male and female throughout the day, and 1 that was “konyoku” or mixed bath that you had to reserve. Since there were so few people there we really had the place to ourselves. I never saw any of the other guests except at meal time. To get to the mixed bath you had to cross through the annex, which was closed for winter. It was a good 5 minute walk through dark corridors that was straight out of a Japanese horror movie.
The baths were alright, and there really is something refreshing about sitting in scalding water when its 15 below out and snowing. But frankly the coolest part of the trip for me was the trips through the deserted annex buildings. Ann was decidedly less enthusiastic about the horror movie angle. I had intended to stay longer and explore, but to put it bluntly, shit was creepy as hell and after 5 minutes I chickened out and ran back to our room. Plus the annex was straight out of the 1800s with paper walls so it was too cold to stand around in a skimpy ill-fitting yukata for long. So back at our room we drank some local micro brews and unfiltered sake and watched ainori on TV.
Take THAT, clean ryokan. Why does this happen every time we go to Gifu?