Jethro: I could paint our 2 year anniversary in a very good or a very bad light.
If I said I took Lauren on a 1 hr bus journey, stayed in the cheapest guesthouse in the village, and treated her to a dinner of cold snacks from 7-11, I might be considered a cheap boyfriend, but would be honest.
Thankfully I’m a positive person, so I’ll say that out day started traveling up scenic mountain roads, through picturesque Japanese villages. Peach wasn’t told (but I later found that she had guessed) that we were to going to a fancy onsen town high up in the Japanese Alps. Onsen are Japanese natural hot springs, and whole villages up in this mountain are covered in public and private, indoor and outdoor steaming baths. In some villages, people stroll the cold streets wearing robes, hopping from bath to bath.
We were staying at a Ryokan (Japanese Inn) with 4 private onsen, which you just flip a sign over to claim as yours anytime you want. Two nice ones were inside, but my favourite ones were the 2 outdoor ones, set amongst natural rocks and looking up at the starry night sky, and out at the forested valley.
Onsen have to be done naked, and it’s a bit disconcerting to be starkers outside, but no-one can walk where they would see in at you. Once you get used to it it is the best thing ever.
We stayed in the cheapest Ryokan because it also looked the cutest, and was the only one in this village which was not 5* and massively overpriced. There are no restaurants up this bit of mountain, and the hotel did only one (£40pp) meal which wasn’t in Peach’s “identified safe food list” while still sick. Hence getting fancy supermarket food and doing our own super tasty picnic. It was actually really nice being able to do the onsen, come back for some nibbles, cool off, do more onsen, and repeat whenever we liked. I think we did 5 separate sessions in the pools.
These were super Japanesey rooms, and they give you yukata/kimono to wear while here. If you tie the robe closed to the right first, then it means you are alive. If you do the left first, it means you are dead! Careful!
We had some Kaiseki for breakfast, which is a load of separate little seasonal dishes. Some were a bit too weird to be enjoyable, but the “baked salmon”, “unidentifiable pickle”, and “red thingy” were especially nice.
Sitting in these outdoor onsen and just chatting and being happy was probably the most enjoyable thing I’ve done on this whole trip. It was simple and beautiful and I had the best company.
Bring on the next year!