2008年5月アーカイブ

Nozawa Onsen is a small town.

That is one of the first things ryokan owner Kesanari Kono tells me when I check into his neat little Japanese inn, Kawaichiya.

"You can walk from one end to the other in 30 minutes," the soft-spoken Kono-san says in fluent English. But the town is old, so it is easy to lose your sense of direction in its crooked streets.

"If you are lost, look for this," he adds, circling a landmark on a little map of the town which has fewer than 5,000 residents. "There is only one traffic light in town."

That is when you realise Nozawa is kilometres from the bright lights and big city.

Travellers come to this small town for two things: skiing on the 1,650m-high Kenashi-yama mountain, part of Japan's Alps, and hot springs, which erupt from the mountain's volcanic core.

Located in the Nagano prefecture, five hours' drive from Tokyo's Narita airport, Nozawa is the perfect getaway for city folks.

Although it does get busy during the peak snow season from December to March, mostly from domestic day-trippers, Nozawa is still a fairly undiscovered gem compared to hot spots like Hokkaido and Nagano, which hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics.

"At Yoshimi Soba, you can have very good homemade soba."

Home to one of the first ski resorts in Japan, Nozawa is powder heaven because you can still get snow during the off-peak season in April, and even as late as May.

Within a stone's throw of the village are 10 different courses catering to both skiers and snowboarders of every competency from beginner's to expert.

If you want to pick up skiing, there is a ski school which can arrange for lessons with an English-speaking coach. As lessons are charged by the hour, it is cheaper to go in a group so you can split the cost.

For those who want to just relax and chill, metaphorically speaking, Nozawa offers 13 public baths, which draws from hot springs heated from a volcanic source.

The baths are free. But do watch your etiquette. The polite thing to do is scrub yourself clean before stepping into the hot springs to soak. A word of warning to the uninitiated: Baths are divided according to gender because everyone strips down to his or her birthday suit.

After a hard day's worth of skiing, or soaking, most will want to simply retire to their ryokans, most of which offer both bed and breakfast options as well as dinner plans.

The town's eating options are fairly varied but eateries are tucked away innocuously in basements and modest buildings.

Try Akebitei Okonomiyaki for excellent okonomiyaki (fried batter cake with savoury ingredients) and yaki soba (stir-fried noodles). At Yoshimi Soba, you can have very good homemade soba.

Practically every dish served in Nozawa comes with a small dish of Nozawana-Zuke, a pickle made from a leafy kale-like vegetable that is the town's speciality.

Far more exotic than this humble pickle is horse sashimi - a delicacy in the region - which is available at quite a number of local eateries.

For something less Fear Factor, check out the staggering array of apple delicacies, ranging from apple pies to biscuits, as the prefecture of Nagano is famous for the fruit. Do try the bottles of freshly squeezed apple juice, pulpy and sweet, on offer. And the vacuum-dried apple crisps are crunchily addictive.

Quaint and sleepy, Nozawa Onsen is the perfect snowy getaway for those looking to get far from the madding crowd.

(By ONG SOR FERN/ The Straits Times/ ANN)


野沢温泉 河一屋

2008/05/07

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野沢温泉 河一屋

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