Welcome to Zao Onsen Resort in Yamagata, Japan – home to avid snowboarders, skiers, and hot springs enthusiasts.
In other words, welcome to the coldest, most boring place that a resin kid could possibly be.
It wasn’t all that bad, really. I just couldn’t go anywhere, except stay in Haru’s bag or watch the room that she and her friends were spending the night in… mostly because Haru was too busy face-planting down the mountain side to take care of me on the slopes.
Apparently, riding a snowboard is not like riding a bike. Ten years of neglect leads to eating a lot of snow, and complaining about bad joints like an old lady.
Haru couldn’t take me with her because it was too hazardous, for one. It was also too cold to take many pictures on the mountain, because the camera buttons kept sticking. But here are some shots that her shaking, frost-bitten hands didn’t mess up!
Check out how thick the snow is! Entire trees and shops were covered up from head to toe. Yamagata is actually known for its “Snow Monsters” or Juhyou (樹氷). It literally means “tree ice.”
Haru didn’t get to see them, since she didn’t go all the way to the top of the mountain, but here’s a photo borrowed from Google Images so you guys get the picture.
Of course, it’s not fun going to a winter resort, only to freeze to death. A hot meal, like hot-pot or Shabu-Shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ) warms the belly well enough.
There was also sashimi, tempura, nabe, and other traditional Japanese food to enjoy.
However, a body melting hot spring, or a hot onsen (温泉), is probably the best way to go. Though I was cold, there was no way I would go to the girl’s hot springs! And there was no way Haru could take me to the boys’ area either, so all I did was lounge around some more in the room while the girls played dress up and went to the onsen together.
Here’s the girls’ changing area – don’t worry, no naked bodies were present when these photos were taken. While everyone else went skiing and snowboarding on day two, Haru spent it taking a five-hour nap in the hot springs by herself. Lazy bones.
Not to mention, Haru also spent quite a while enjoying the massage chair.
Here’s the indoor onsen. Before you can even go into the hot springs, you must be squeaky clean. That means you take a shower first before going in for a soak.
This door leads to the onsen outside, in the freezing cold. Many people wouldn’t dare walk stark naked into below freezing temperatures, but a short trip from the door into the onsen to stew a few hours is rewarding, according to my onsen-loving friend.
Haru told me that even though she was outside in the ice and snow, she only had to submerge her legs to stay warm. I could barely believe her, but then again, that steaming water looks like it could have boiled a lobster!
While she slept much of the time away in the onsen, Haru also spent much of her time reading while taking her bath. Old bookworm habits die hard it seems.
Looking at these pictures makes me envious of her. Perhaps one day when Haru trusts her snowboarding skills again and saves enough money to buy me some proper winter clothes, I’ll get to come back and see the view with her. Komame too… once I find him.
Until the next adventure,