Dragging ourselves (well, myself – W is skipping) away from the monkey park, a public bus takes us back down to Shibu Onsen, and we look for lunch. Unfortunately, everything seems to be closed, (maybe we need to go back to the monkeys and compete with them foraging?) and the only place we find is a bun shop.
We’re so hungry we’ll eat anything, but the two we choose initially are frozen (“Need to wait 30 minutes”), so we choose something else; a green tea and a coffee flavour bun. Interesting….. It’s like a pancake, pleasant and soft.
Still in search of something more substantial to eat, we stumble on a cafe – entering into a tiny room where a wizened old lady is reading her paper. The coffee is ground in front of us, and she serves a really good cuppa, but all my attempts to see if we can obtain something in the way of food is futile. Coffee seems to be the only word she understands. Though she does bring us a couple of slices of marinated apple – delicious, and better than nothing..
Back at the hotel we avail ourselves of the onsen (hot spring) downstairs. The hotel has two on the premises: they rotate them so one is for men between 3pm – 7pm, and then it’s for the women. Here they all bathe communally, so the segregation is understandable. Needless to say W is convinced that he would quite happily go and bathe with the women, though I do remind him that the women might not feel as happy at that prospect. Sigh.
It’s quite a ritual: wash off while sitting on little stools, and then immerse yourself in the hot pool – inside or outside. The water is HOT, so I venture outside to the outdoor pool, and though it’s cold out of the water, it’s lovely to sit in the warmth and look at the zen-like surroundings. I see there are balconies on the building next door and wonder if there is any risk of someone peeking over, but then again if they are willing to brave the cold, and risk falling off the balcony at the sight, then they’re welcome. I feel a bit like one of those monkeys as steam rises around me, but decide to forgo the pleasure of clopping around the neighbourhood visiting the other public baths. I’ll just clop around looking for food.
The next day it’s snowing, and we wander about checking out shrines and eating places, it only takes 15 minutes to walk from top to bottom, but the icicles and snow make for happy snapping.
The day goes by remarkably quickly, and then it’s sayonara and off to Nagano for one night.
The proprietor-ess has been admiring my coat, and is duly impressed when I say to her I made it myself. Our delighful chauffeur(esse?) from our arrival has been impressed by the fact of my TWO cameras, one for wide and one for distance I tell her. “Ah, professional”! I’ve sent them to my website: www.photodelmundo.net and the owner says she loves the penguin photos, and where are they from. My hand written map of the southern hemisphere doesn’t quite do it, so next comes a proper map and I am able to show then Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia Island. Much “Ooh and Aah” ensues and we sadly part company after a final pat of the coat.
They have been so delightful, there is a tear in my eye as we leave, but as they say: “Upwards, ever onwards” – whatever that means.