22 Dec 2017
I finally get to make use of the JR Rail Pass! We jumped on the shinkansen to Nagano, then on to Shibu Onsen, a small onsen town in Nagano Prefecture. We stayed at a ryokan, which gave us access to the 12 onsens in town. One of the larger ryokan/onsen is said to be inspiration for the onsen in the movie Spirited Away and it totally looks like it!
They gave us a Yukata (traditional robe, like an informal kimono) and geta, Japanese sandles. These things are very difficult to walk in, especially on steps! There wasn’t any snow in town but it was pretty cold, around 5°C, and the robes are quite thin, but after the first bath visit we stayed warm for a while, long enough to get to the next one! They arent the most fancy things, on the inside its really just a shack with a small bath that you share with whoever else is in there at the time… naked… Some of the baths the water was too hot to handle, if you have it to yourself you can mix in the coldwater but it takes a while to cool down. But it really is a nice experience wondering around town in the robes trying differnt onsen, you also get towel to stamp off each one you visit.
The town is also near the famous Jigokudani Monkey Park, where you can see snow monkeys in the onsen! As we got closer to the park there was snow! The first time Erika has ever seen snow. Just outside the park there is a geyser and a very old ryokan we thought about staying in, which looks beautiful covered in snow but its outside onsen is completely visible to the people walking to the monkey park! So no one was using it. We saw lots of monkeys running about, but none of them were actually in the water unfortunately.