Friday, 25 September 2009

Yamagata - Zao onsen Sat night

Zao is on the border of Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures. After stopping off at Zao - you can drive almost the whole way to the crater lookout - we headed down into Yamagata to Zao onsen where we stayed the night.
The road down to Zao onsen was quite lovely with autumn leaves in the higher places beginning to turn.

With its milky, sulfurous water it was plain to see why it was an onsen (hot springs) town.   The sulfur smell that hung over the town gave good reason to accept the veracity of warning signs on the public baths to take care with onsen cloths as the strong sulfur in the water would disintegrate fabric fibres.

The upside of 'famous' onsen town is, naturally, the onsen water; the down side is that the accommodation is invariably priced for the water rather than the accommodation.  (To be fair though we did book very late for a 5 day weekend.)

The place we stayed at had an onsen - the pictures of it make it look quite grubby - it was old but clean. The onsen culture there was very Tokyo (where I assume most of the guests came from) minimal eye contact, no speaking, no splashing, no bothering anyone, and minimal time spent in the onsen.   In contrast an onsen in Akita - where it is all locals using the onsen instead of the bathroom at home - there people soak, chat, do pedicures, scrub backs, in some cases sit on the floor to  scrub, stretch, do exercises, sit in every bath available, often spending an hour or even two.... perhaps the television programs in Akita aren't as good...

A quaint feature of the town was a public foot bath with excruciatingly hot water - the 8 or so year old girl sitting next to me assured me that though it was hot, I would get used to it....such wisdom...

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