At noon we left Fukushima prefecture and headed further north. At Koriyama we changed to the Yamagata Shinkansen headed for Yonezawa. As the train climbed its way up the mountains, the landscape turned white. We continued the journey with two buses before reaching our final destination.
As a highlight of this trip, we reserved a room in a secluded mountain ryokan high up in Yamagata’s mountains. The inn’s 4×4 minibus picked us up at the last stop of the public bus line. The unpaved mountain road at the end was so steep that most cars would not have been able to climb it. The ryokan is well prepared for the loads of snow it receives for most of the year: it even has its own snowplow.
Our ryokan offered four natural hot spring baths; in summer, there is even a fifth one. Two of them feature carved-out chestnut stems, while another one is a large stone bath with a view. All but one of them were outside the house, so we had to walk a few steps to reach them. Changing into light yutakas and rubber boots — a strange combination — and walking in the midst of the fresh snow to the bath was an incredible experience hard to put into words.
Dinner was served in a private room and we enjoyed the full bandwidth of the local cuisine, with river fish, Yonezawa beef, mountain vegetables and soba noodles.
Another trip to the bath later we slept on our futons over a heated rug. The next morning, we enjoyed another bath and breakfast and yet another quick dip before we had to leave.
Everybody we met was so kind to us and we really enjoyed our stay off the grid. We are very happy having discovered this place and we are looking forward to coming back.
Leaving the snowy mountains behind, we next traveled to Aomori prefecture to Hachinohe. While we descended to sea level, we also went way further north, so snow greeted us again.