Shuzenji Onsen, Shizuoka

| No Comments

I love making little weekend trips to places in Japan. Every town has its charms and I am rarely disappointed, even when we choose at random. I wish I would remember this more often and make an effort to explore more of the country.

This weekend, I whisked Tod away for a Valentine weekend of "athletics and adventure." We went to Shuzenji, a 1200 year old onsen town in the middle of Izu. On the outskirts of the city is the Cycle Sports Center, a weird pedal-powered amusement park that also has several real biking courses. Tod had a great time; I fell off my bicycle on the 5K course. The wheeled things have it in for me. I bruised my knee and my ego, but no permanent harm was done.

I had a great time in the giant maze, though, and loved the "Interesting Bicycles" course where we tried out hand-pedaled bikes, an old fashioned big-wheel-in-front cycle, a sideways bicycle for two and a bunch of other novelties. The pedaled roller coasters and other rides were a kick, too.

We stayed at an Indonesian themed hotel called Yutorian. In addition to a lovely (but very chilly) rotenburo and the usual indoor bath, it has a mixed sex bath that is built in a natural cave. The story of the cave is an interesting one. One day in the late 80s, the owner of the hotel picked up a drill and started digging. After two years of daily drilling wit his family scoffing at him for being nuts, he broke through into the cave. He didn't know he would. I wonder what possessed him to start drilling the mountain outside his hotel?

After a dinner that featured too many scallops for my liking, Tod & I went out to look at the stars. With the advice of the hotel staff we had scoped out a really dark spot in the middle of a field near the elementary school. I wanted to give my Christmas toy, the Celestron SkyScout, its first real outing. It was freezing cold and the half moon was so bright it cast shadows, but we had a good time pointing the SkyScout at things and asking it to tell us what they were. Until my fingers were too numb to work the buttons, we also located the various planets (most of which were on the other side of the earth) and stars whose names we remembered.

Today we explored the onsen town, climbing the mountain to the ume forest-park at the top and enjoying a plum blossom festival, then descending to visit Shuzenji temple where I made my hatsumode (a little later than usual) and got a daikichi (big luck) fortune that tells me I will get ahead in the world. We stuck our feet in the legendary Dokko no Yu, climbed the tourist association's little tower, and just enjoyed wandering the village and seeing the sights.

At a shop near the train station, I scored a new teapot to replace the one we broke last year. The shopkeepers were wonderfully careful - unwrapping the brand-new pot and ringing the ceramic to make sure it was intact, then heating the rubber pour spout in hot water and adjusting the fit before running around to find a box for it. While we waited and watched the ceremony of the teapot preparations, I noticed that the couple's painted portrait hung above the door to the stockroom. Perhaps an anniversary gift... it was sweet.

All in all, we enjoyed a great weekend break from the big city.

Leave a comment