My friend Aki's mother runs a hotel in Yabuzuka, and invited me to come and visit.
The best part of this (and not photographed, alas, because I thought bringing a camera to dinner was silly -- a mistake I will not make twice) was that she asked the chef to make me a traditional Japanese meal without fish. I could eat everything! There was so much food! So, after a morning train ride, an afternoon of bathing, and an evening meal full of tastiness, all there was left to do was sleep sleep sleep.
The Ryomo-go train from Asakusa to Yabuzuka.
Tokyo has canals and bridges.
Yabuzuka! The mountains have snow.
The cheerful welcome at Yabuzuka's Edo-era style "mystery spot".
Edo-era style buildings.
My guide, Kaz, who does gardening for Aki's mother. He doesn't speak English; I don't speak Japanese. We have heart to heart communication. And a lot of gesturing.
We also have snacks. These are bread buns with a sweet/salty glaze.
It looks like the buns made me really fat, but that's actually my guidebook swelling out the pocket at my middle. Really, it is.
More scenic buildings.
One of these is built on a slant and you can do fun optical illusion tricks like rolling balls "uphill". But it was too dark, so you'll have to imagine how cool that was.
There was also a Secret Ninja House with mazes and Secret Trick Doors that you have to figure out. I expect that most 7-year-old Japanese kids can figure them out, but I needed help. No photos, because photos upset the spiritual balance of the Secret Ninja House, so you'll have to imagine how cool that was as well.
The hallway entrance to my room.
The toilet is the first door on the right, and the sinks and bath are the second door on the right, but only the door to the sinks was open. The door to the toilet is so nicely integrated into the wall that I didn't realise it was a door and there was much amusement as I tried to figure out whether I even had a toilet. Every time I figure out a new toilet in Japan (they are ALL different), I feel just like I did opening the Secret Ninja Doors.
When you arrive at the ryokan, you must change into a yukata (bathrobe). Everyone does. And then you wander about in yukata and slippers between bathing and napping and meals. This is me in my yukata.
And this is my cosy futon bed. I did some quality sleeping here, let me tell you.