Journeys in Japan – Nasu, Tochigi
This was my first trip after giving birth to my son. In May, we took him to a hotspring in Nasu, Tochigi prefecture.
Before arriving at a ryokan, we stopped at Ashino stone museum – the Stone plaza that was constructed from an old warehouse by a famous contemporary designer Kuma Kengo. Japan is very unique in this way: in the middle of an utterly rural area with nothing but rice fields and muddy roads there is a true gem, astonishing piece of art that should belong in a big city. I was really impressed with the museum’s architecture and curated collection of light and shadow.
Back in May, Danny was still only 5 months old so he was sleeping through most of our trip. If I take him out now, he would be jumping out of the carrier touching everything left and right. ^-^
Our ryokan was very fancy. After traveling to so many hotsprings, me and my husband decided that we prefer old traditional ryokans with a modern twist. I love tatami rooms and authentic public baths but if they are designed with the hint of a modern aesthetic – it is even better. Japan is very good at combining old with new and you can see it clearly when you visit a contemporary ryokan (Japanese style hotels/inns).
I fell in love with warm cashmere ponchos that were available in the room. I couldn’t help but buy one for this coming autumn. They are so cozy especially over a baby carrier. ^-^
Over the years of living in Japan, I got to appreciate what I call the “floor” culture. At first, I couldn’t understand why there are no tables or chairs or beds but now I get it. Sleeping on the floor on a mattress is so relaxing and with a tiny baby that is determined to fall down at any given moment, a floor bed looks particularly attractive. If only I had a tatami room in my apartment..
There was a semi-open hotspring bath attached to the room which was super useful as I could control the temperature of the water for baby’s sake.
I adapted a new tradition of trying various local ciders on my trips around Tokyo – not only for the taste but also because I love old-fashioned bottles with marble corks that they still use for them. I have never seen anything like this anywhere else. It truly fascinates me that someone would come up with such design. I realize now that I should have taken a photo of unopened bottle to prove my point.. Oh well, next time!
Private rotemburo was great too. One of the two baths was only 40C so me and Danny took a dip in it.
He looks here like a little Buddha – fat and bald and with a gaze that shows all the sadness of the world. In reality he was just curious about water ripples that a little stream was making on the surface of the bath. ^-^ We dressed him in a “jimbei” – traditional Japanese summer wear for boys.
The dinner was incredible. Many people in Japan look at two things when choosing a ryokan: “o-furo” – the bath and “kaiseki ryori” – dinner which is the succession of small dishes that come one after another creating an elaborate meal. Traditional kaiseki ryori would only have vegetables and fish but the ones with modern twist also often feature meat and various takes on French desserts. This time, our dinner was exactly that – traditional meals followed by shabu-shabu – meat and veggies soup. At the end, we also had an amazing peach pudding. All the veggies and the catch were strictly local and seasonal.
The next day, we went to Nasu Heisei forest – national reserve and an amazing hiking place. Unfortunately, while the baby was still small we couldn’t really challenge ourselves but we did have a nice stroll around. The air was so pure, he fell asleep in an instant.
Nasu is famous for its Rusk cookies so we stocked up on them on the way back home. Wherever you go in Japan, you will always find an amazingly stylish souvenir shop that would sell delicious local delicacies. I really admire such dedication and attention to details.