May 10, 2009

Kinugawa Onsen

For the Golden Week break, I headed off to Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo to the Nikko area. On the first day, I stayed at the Kinugawa Onsen spa town. The kanji for Kinugawa literally translates as 'angry demon river', so just outside the station you can see this mascot.
... and this one too.
Luckily I had a whole week off work, and the day I got here wasn't actually a national holiday, so it was nice and quiet. I imagine that a couple of days later it was packed.
Arriving in the late morning, there was plenty of time to look around and do some stuff before checking in to the ryokan.
The first thing I did was to take a ride on the Line Kudari boat. It's a 40 or so minute ride down the river through a gorge like valley that is quite picturesque.
The boats are steered by two guides at front and back, with the guy at the front also acting as a kind of MC for the trip. the boats are equipped with clear plastic sheeting which you can hold up to stop you getting too wet as you journey down the river.
As with many similar types of river trip, some the rocks have been named after animals depending on the shape. Some are more easily identified than others, such as this one below which is called the gorilla.

Maybe you have always wondered how electricity supplies reach even the remotest parts of the countryside (or then again maybe you haven't). Well, for those who are curious the hand-powered contraption below is used by the local electricity board so that their workers can get access to the far side of the river in order to maintain/repair the pylons on the far side that aren't close to a road.

The other burning question is since the boats are travelling a few kilometres down the river, which is on a reasonable incline, how do they get back upstream? Well, they are loaded on to a truck by crane and driven back at the end of the day.
As a change of focus and pace, the next place I visited was the Trick Art Museum, a place full of optical illusions that is simply meant to be a bit of fun. Upon entering, an usherette gives a very long-winded and excessively polite talk about how to look at the different images on display in order to see the illusions. Some of the images work much better than others and they all look more convincing through a camera lens than to the naked eye. For example some pictures may appear to be in 3-D despite being flat.
Alternatively you can take pictures that appear to make you float in the air. All a bit tacky and very silly, but a bit of a laugh nevertheless.
Much more fun was the Takehisa Yumeji Museum nearby, though of course I couldn't take pictures there. Yumeji was a self-taught artist/illustrator from the early twentieth century who mainly did pictures of women of the era, and while his work was seen as bit lightweight by the art critics of the day, his work was (and still is) fairly popular.
As it got to late afternoon, it was time to check in to the ryokan, a nice large place with good baths and a nice spread of food in the evening.

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