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Published: April 3rd 2017
Spring is just starting to make itself felt on the west coast. We missed the cherry blossoms by a few days in Tokyo, and it's been getting colder ever since.
We left Tokyo on the Shinkanzen (high-speed train), heading to the west coast over the mountains that extend the length of Honshu, the main island. Within 60 minutes of Tokyo, we were in the “Alps” and passing ski resorts, still in business. The west coast of Japan gets “lake effect” snow from the Sea of Japan and cold winds that blow from Korea.
Before we started our trip, we’d sent a package of cool-weather clothes to our Tokyo hotel via DHL. (Another long story …) Kanazawa was our first western city, and it quickly became clear that cool-weather clothes were not going to do it. I bought a Chinese jacket with a bright plush lining, and Tom, after buying a vest in Tokyo, gave up and bought a Mont-Bell 800 pound fill jacket (with hood!) at a factory outlet store in Kanazawa. Freezin’ a*s cold, as we say in Tennessee.
We were hoping to follow the cherry blossoms, and managed to catch a few brave blossoms in Kanazawa, before we headed to Shirakawa-go, a well-preserved and snow covered village of “praying hands” houses, which I’d call A-frames. They are built of wood, tied together with rope, and covered with
Bedroom at our Ryokan
In Kanagawa, we experienced our first ryokan this trip. Those featherbeds are wonderful in the cold nights!
thatch roofs that are about two feet thick. We were told that the thatch roofs last 20-30 years, but that they cost up to $200,000 to replace. The snow on the ground was thawing, but was at least three feet high, and that’s NOT drifts or plowed piles.
Our “ryokan” (a Japanese inn/B&B) was one of the thatch roof houses, divided into separate tatami-floored rooms by sliding paper doors. It’s not a place where you want to enjoy your honeymoon! The room had a great space heater, thank goodness, and an electric warming mat under the quilt at the low table. I spent the evening lying on the floor. In the photo, you can see I'm wearing the yakuta and jacket provided by the inn.
Most ryokans provide both dinner and breakfast, and they are spectacular – though you’d better like fish and shellfish. Meals are often served on the low table in your room, and are a collection of tiny bowls, each with some small offering: fish, green vegetable, an egg, some pickles, a tempura shrimp – and always rice and green tea. Same menu, different food, for breakfast.
We followed the snow from
Where the bed goes
During the day, a low table sits in the middle of your room, while the beds are taken apart and stored in a cupboard.
Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go to Takayama, and then headed to Kyoto, where it was (gasp!) warm!
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