Last weekend, I went on an overnight trip to an onsen town in the Gunma prefecture. Known for their scenic mountains and natural hot springs, Gunma is a very relaxing and beautiful part of Japan to explore. Though the trip was fairly short, it was still a nice time and a great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.
Our first stop on the trip was at a daruma doll shop where we got to meet a daruma ‘master’ who has spent years of his life painting the faces of these cute dolls. If you’re unfamiliar with daruma dolls, they are circular, wooden toys that represent luck and supposedly have the ability to grant wishes. Surmise to say, they’re a very interesting aspect of Japanese culture.
While at this shop, we were able to paint our own daruma doll to take home. Though my daruma painting skills need some work, it was still fun giving it a try.
https://flic.kr/p/2nW9Esj – The Daruma Workshop
Following the daruma shop, we stopped at a rest area to enjoy a hearty lunch of vegetable udon before arriving at a beautiful, mountainside shrine. Though we didn’t stay for long, it was a peaceful location and a great place to view the autumn leaves.
https://flic.kr/p/2nW9EvR – Some tasty udon!
https://flic.kr/p/2nW8JAF – A picture from the mountainside shrine. Very pretty!
It wasn’t long before we arrived at our hotel in Ikaho, a small countryside town in the heart of Gunma. The hotel was fairly large, and the rooms were an interesting blend of western and traditional. To add to this traditional feeling, there were comfy yukatas available for us to pick up in the main lobby too. They were nice to wear after going to the onsen that was connected to the hotel.
To put it simply, onsens are bathing areas typically separated by gender. The two main rules for onsens are that you’re expected to wash off before going in and that you can’t wear any clothes or bathing suits inside. I’ve never done anything like this so it was a bit of an intimidating experience for me. Nonetheless, the water was very relaxing and I enjoyed my time.
https://flic.kr/p/2nW8JAv – The Ikaho Steps, a popular spot in the town.
https://flic.kr/p/2nW4Hwx – Our hotel room, complete with tatami mats and futons to sleep on.
https://flic.kr/p/2nW9EtM – An early morning view from our hotel room. Gunma is very scenic!
Amidst all of these fun moments, I allowed myself to reflect a bit more over my time so far. It’s an understatement to say that the past few months have flown by. However, I’m very grateful for my experiences because doing something new like this pushes me out of my comfort zone a little bit. I’m not sure how the rest of my semester will be, but I’m hopeful it’ll be as great as my time in Gunma.