Bessho Onsen

After the trip to mirror lake and the togakushi shrine yesterday, we visited Bessho Onsen – a small resort town famous for its hot springs.

The whole experience felt like travelling back in time. The train station and the two-car train are both designed to feel like they are from the 20’s and the train slowly rolls through the mountains and rice fields. The town itself is tiny, full of old ryokans (traditional Japanese style inn), onsens (hot springs), restaurants, shops and temples.

We stopped at a coffee shop that uses an old-school Japanese coffee roaster, then went to a small tofu shop. An old Japanese lady walked in right after us and immediately started buying various food for us as a gift- turns out she is the mama san (owner) of a nearby ryokan.

The town was simultaneously endearing and somewhat sad – perhaps just because it was empty due to the cold weather, but perhaps also because it feels like a relic stuck out of time. Granted, a lot of Japan feels like a throwback to a different era (whether it’s the 1920’s or the 1500’s), but there was definitely a ghostly quality to this place.

On the way home we took a taxi instead of the train and bus to save time. Japanese taxis are, unsurprisingly, unique. The cars themselves are bulky and feel out of place next to modern Japanese cars, the passenger doors are opened and closed by a lever the driver pulls from the front seat and the drivers are usually older men, dressed in a uniform and wearing white gloves. Another relic of a different time that has been preserved miraculously well in Japan.

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