The cool weather from yesterday had disappeared this morning, waking up hot for the first time in a few days.  The weather forecast predicts that this heat wave is to continue for some time to come yet.  Great.  At least the heat generally means there is blue in the sky.

We had a quick breakfast (nothing exciting/different/special) and went to see what the information centre had to offer us in the area.  We found a temple that was carved by the ‘regional Michaelangelo’, Ishikawa Uncho (and it was on our way out of town too), so we went to check it out.

Japan-Road-Trip_-_PKO7502 Japan-Road-Trip_-_PKO7503The temple is an old styled building with a thatched roof (which is being protected by a giant roof/cage/structure above it.  It was a ¥300 entrance fee, which wasn’t too bad.  It started off in a general temple like building, with artwork by lots of other local artists.  After admiring their work, we arrived at the old school/temple with all Ishikawa’s carvings.  Sadly, there was a strict ‘no photography’ policy which I suspected was to help sell copies of their ¥500 books of the temple, though Risa tells me it’s common practise in a temple (because there are people’s ashes resting there).

It really bugged me that I couldn’t take photos, as his work was amazing.  The detail and three-dimensionality was uncanny.  There were tigers, dragons, demons, landscapes, people and stories.  You could spend serious amounts of time in there finding small details if you wanted to, which I did, though 10 minutes was enough.  It was however a little more difficult due to the high ceilings.

Japan-Road-Trip_-_PKO7507We restarted our travels to Nozawa, and it wasn’t too long after that we saw a sign for spring water (from one of Japan’s 100 best springs).  Everything in Japan has a list, ‘100 best night views’, ‘100 best sunset locations’, ‘100 best autumn colour drives’ etc.  We were running low on water (but high on empty bottles), so we grabbed all that we could and headed for the spring to fill up.  We got nine litres of cold, amazing, fresh water for nothing more than the fuel used in the 14km detour (the sign implied that it would have only been 10…).

Before we left Sapporo, we bought a big box of cooking gas canisters from Costco, but had yet to find a portable cooktop that was capable of using them, so whenever we saw a Hard-Off or a Second Street, we’d pull in and try our chances.  Well, we were finally lucky today.  ¥1150!  And it was brand new.

It was Colonel Sanders’ birthday yesterday, and to celebrate, KFC were giving away a free piece of chicken (if you had a coupon, which of course Risa did).  It was Risa’s lucky day, because next door to Hard-Off was a shopping mall with a KFC.  All her Christmases had come at once, free KFC!  I passed, and bought something from the bakery.


Japan-Road-Trip_-_PKO7510nozawaThe reason we came to Nozawa ahead of other places in Niigata was for their annual festival.  Today was the second, and smaller day, though we didn’t realise how much smaller it was going to be until we’d already arrived.  It was basically a single mikoshi (portable shrine) that was being walked through the (super narrow) streets of town.  It was slightly disappointing, as the prior night’s proceedings included FIRE!

Anyway, we were here in Nozawa, so we were going to explore, and thanks to the ‘cub, explore we did.  We drove all around the tiny alleys, some of which were probably footpaths.  Driving around made us really envious, as Niseko is so soul-less in comparison.  This is a real town, with history, traditions, buildings and character.  We even ventured as far as the top of the mountain, to try and check out a lake, which after riding for more than 30 minutes to get to (and through the clouds), it was just another lake.  At least the twisty road was a blast on the scooter, though my forearms are quite tired now (thanks to supporting Risa’s weight).

Japan-Road-Trip_-_PKO7518 Japan-Road-Trip_-_PKO7522 Japan-Road-Trip_-_PKO7532Throughout the town there are dozens of free onsens, you just bring your own soap/shampoo/towel, so to make the most of the potential money saver, we went back to the car to grab our onsen gear.  When we returned to town, the mikoshi had arrived at the main onsen, which was the end of the festival.  There was more cheering, and pushing (it was a competition, like a tug-of-war in reverse).  We watched for a while before jumping in for a quick onsen.


nozawaIt was nice inside, old timber.  Very plain/simple.  There were two baths,  one hot, one cooler.  Though, they were both actually connected…  I had a quick bath as it was just a little too hot for me to enjoy.


nozawaJapan-Road-Trip_-_PKO7553By the time we’d finished, the sun had set, and the drinking had begun.  We were tired/hungry so we grabbed a quick meal from a nearby izakaya (Japanese style bar) that was recommended by some merry locals.  We got some nice soba (Nagano speciality) and kara-age (amazing fried chicken, way better than anything that KFC can produce).

nozawaAfter dinner, we tried our luck at one more free onsen, though the men’s side was far beyond what I could tolerate.  I tried my hardest, but it was burning me, and wasn’t pleasant.  Strangely, Risa said her side was nice…

We put the ‘cub back into the van, and drove off down the road to the nearby michi-no-eki.  Set up the bed, rode off to the convenience store to buy some ice-cream to eat while we watch another episode of Dexter.  Great way to end the day.



朝食をすませインフォメーションセンターで近隣情報を。なにやらこの辺に越後のミケランジェロと呼ばれた彫刻家、石川 雲蝶のすばらしい天井装飾が施された西福寺というお寺があるらしい。

お寺には、雲蝶が描いたふすま絵なども展示してあり、雲蝶は、彫りの才能だけではなく、絵の才能も高く評価されている。実際に、筆遣いや生き生きとした描写は、すばらしかった。  そしていよいよ天井彫刻が施されているお堂へ。  すばらしい。の一言。残念ながら写真はNGだったので、ぜひネットで検索して作品をみて下さい!!  天井には、和尚さんと虎、龍、川、極楽などが掘られており、その遠近感や色彩などなど、ほんとうに圧倒された。 大きさとディテールを考えればこれを6年で作り上げたというから驚き!! 雲蝶さん、なかなかやります。 新潟に行った時は、ぜひ彼の作品のあるお寺はここだけではないので、見つけて見てみて下さい☆

もう一つより道。野沢温泉までの道の途中にわき水スポットあるらしいので、給水タイム!ちょっとした山道を下ると小さな石造りの龍から水が出ている。冷たくておいし〜。 湧水スポットは、野営温泉スポットと同じく、私たちの旅にかかせないもの☆


駐車場に車を置いて、バイクで町を散策。出発してすぐに、小さな御神輿行列を発見!とてもローカルな小さなものだが、なんせ道が非常に狭く、うねっていて、坂道が多いので、通るのが大変。 神輿行列も無事みれて、散策をつづける。家々やお宿は、とても古く風情があり、町中に湯場(共同浴場)があり温泉の香りがただよっている。 道は、バイクと人がやっと通れるくらいの道が多く坂も急で、そしてまるで迷路。なんどか、同じ場所をぐるぐるしてしまった。町の上の方には、村の人々が野菜をゆでたり、卵をゆでたりする90度以上のお湯が出ているところがあり、そこは、プールのようなのと、台所のようなものがあった。 ここであの有名な野沢菜を洗い、ゆでてから、野沢菜漬けをつくるんだって! すご〜い。

村をちょっとみてロスが山の上にある湖をみたいとなり、ドライブしてみると思った以上に遠く険しい道のりでした。 雲の中に入り、寒いし、視界も悪いし、夏の間閉鎖されてるスキー場は、ちょと不気味だし、、そしてやっとこついた湖は、池レベル、、、写真とは大違いでがっかり退散(笑 でも帰りは景色もよく見れ、なかなか良いバイクドライブでした☆

もう一度、あたたかい下界に戻り散策再会。迷路のようでほんとにおもしろい!! お風呂に入る為に道具を取りに車にもどり、また町に戻ると、御神輿が最終版。 おみき(お金やお酒)のカンパをもらう度に、サーササみたいなことを言って、手を叩いていた。 そして御神輿の右側、左側でタックルをして御神輿を押し合うゲーム?のような伝統も見る事ができた。 そしていざお風呂へ! 私たちが入ったのは大湯という一番メインの場所にあるお風呂。つくりは、いたってシンプル。お湯は、最初ちょっと熱かったが、地元の人達がお水を足したので、ちょうどよい。ちょっとみどりっぽいようなさらっとしたお湯だった。同じ町でもちょっと場所がずれるだけで泉質がぜんぜんちがうらしい。


ご飯のあとも、もう一カ所一番探すのが大変と書いてあった温泉をさっきたまたま見つけたので、もう一度めざすも迷子に。なので、次にみつけた温泉にはいりました。 ここは、麻釜湯。お湯はさっきより熱かったけど、ちょうど一人で貸し切りでした〜☆

よくあったまって今日のお宿の道の駅へ。 ぽかぽかでぐっすり眠れそう、、、