Tod & I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary in Shimobe Onsen, Yamanashi, this weekend. One night and two days neatly encapsulated two dozen years of marriage.
The town is one of the 100 Famous Onsen of Japan, but nobody has heard of it. It's a one-street village with ten hotels, four restaurants, one bar, a hospital and two gift shops. Very sleepy for a resort town in Japan. Just perfect for us.
Shimobe Onsen Hotel featured 12 different baths and we were able to rent one for our private use. The hotel caters to an older crowd and had a wheelchair accessible bath with a ramp and a waterproof, spongy-seated chair. There were wheelchair games during our bath time, of course. It was Tod's idea, but I went first. Wheeeee!
Dinner was a kaiseki feast of 12 courses featuring locally produced foods. My favorite dishes were the donabe, a teapot of simmered aromatic vegetables that we poured into teacups before picking the vegetables from the pot; the kamameshi steamed rice with mountain vegetables that we cooked at our table; and the homemade plum wine served with plum jelly. But every dish was delicious and by the time we were finished we were way too stuffed to try the special cake that the staff had arranged for us.
After an indulgent evening of dining and bathing, we decided to spend the next day doing some hill walking. There were three paths marked on signs around town and we tried them all. The first led up to a ridge trail and we sat and jammed for about an hour on ukulele and melodica. Then we attempted an overgrown, treacherous trail to the Forest Athletics Park. It turns out that some natural disaster must have befallen this area a few years back. At the top of the trail was an impressive ropes course behind a sign telling us not to enter. I did enter, but I didn't try to climb up to the games. And finally, we followed the third path up to a temple and beyond to the Green Jumbo grass slide. Tiny plastic toboggans and a steep astroturf slope made for a thrilling ride.
We lunched at a remarkable out-of-the-way soba restaurant called Umeda-ya. Not only did they hand cut the soba to order, but they had the most delicious leafy piles of tempura with mushrooms and persimmons. On a display to the side were bottles of traditional Chinese medicinal liquors. Waiting there were two bottles of live mamushi - Japanese pit vipers - which will soon be pickled with alcohol.
After lunch, we walked back up the mountain to the Green Jumbo. to play again This is when the adventures took a more painful turn. I careened wildly down the hill and ended up rolling out of the toboggan and scraping myself up. The injury was superficial but ugly enough to need some attention before heading home three hours on the train so we walked down to the hospital, which was closed.
Hospitals in Japan close for holidays but that has never stopped us from receiving care when needed. We walked in and found the security guard who called the doctor. I was patched up in 20 minutes. (I'll take that over a US emergency room any day, thanks.) And in a delightful "the world is a strangely small place" moment, the doctor is a US permanent resident from Boston and back in Japan on a special project for two years. We talked about the differences in US and Japanese medical technology while he swabbed my wounds with iodine and covered me in gauze.
After a brief visit to the local gold mining museum (I had no idea there was gold in Japan) we stopped in Kofu for a dinner of houtou, a local noodle specialty, before making the final leg home.
What a fitting adventure to celebrate our marriage: gluttony, relaxation, activity, music, mischievousness, beauty, learning, and pain.