The first couple legs of our trip were coming to an end. We had spent the previous two weeks exploring the Northern end of Japan which was all new to us. We’d never gone to much farther North than Nagoya on previous trips. We were about to leave our last ryokan of this trip. No more kaiseki meals, onsen soaks or fluffy futon nights. It was going to be big city life from here on out.
Episode 18: https://youtu.be/kZKb8sW6dYQ
Zao Onsen had been a fun and unexpected experience. Not quite what I was expecting, and definitely not what Nicole was expecting. There were a few stops on this trip we did little research and planning for and this was one of them. The only thing I knew was that we would see some beautiful scenery, and Nicole was expecting to be doing some skiing.
After putting the Zao Onsen episodes together, and doing a little research to properly document the locations we visited, I have since come to appreciate this beautiful place a little better.
It is definitely a place I would like to return to in the winter, when there is snow. It sounds very appealing to ski down the slopes we hiked, ride the cable cars, go see the snow monsters, and then soak it all away in an onsen at the end of the day. I can definitely better appreciate what Zao Onsen has to offer now than I did when we were actually there and filming.
But having said that, I would have changed nothing from our 2 night visit. The unexpected experience of hiking up the slope and exploring the top when the resort was mainly closed was a fun one. Getting to experience the town in the off-season, when it was quiet, was a peaceful one. And challenging ourselves to stay positive when things didn’t go as we hoped or expected was rewarding. We ended up having a great time in Zao Onsen and will remember it fondly. We’ll hopefully get to visit again.
We had a bit of a hurried exit from Zao Onsen. The buses at this time of year between Zao Onsen and Yamagata are not very frequent, and if we missed our planned bus we’d miss our train. What made it stressful was checking out of the ryokan. Usually we settle the bill the night before, but for some reason we did not this time, and of course we ran into a glitch. Luckily Google Translate helped, and we managed alright in the end, albeit it took a little longer than anticipated.
All was well, we made our bus and embarked on our 7 hour journey to Osaka. Our trip included the bus ride back to Yamagata Station where we caught the Tsubasa Shinkansen into Tokyo Station. From Tokyo we had about 10 minutes to make a transfer to the Hikari Shinkansen which took us into Shin-Osaka Station. Shin-Osaka Station is a large hub for the Shinkansen, and from there we had to transfer to a local train which would bring us into Osaka Station. For a train lover like myself it was a fun day, while not so much so for Nicole. She’s not as big of a fan of long train trips as I am.
Osaka Station is massive. There is so much to do at the station. And it’s connected to several other buildings full of more things to do. Our hotel was connected to the station through a couple walkways. It was easy to navigate. It wasn’t long before we were checked into our room.
As soon as we got off the train at Osaka Station and started to make our way to the exit we knew our trip had taken a turn. No more smaller cities or towns. No more relaxing slow pace. We were in a major bustling city and we’d have to adjust quickly. Sapporo is a large city as well, the 5th largest in Japan, but it still had a more relaxed pace than Osaka. Osaka was more akin to Tokyo.
After a refreshing shower, we did a bit of research to find a place for dinner. It wasn’t hard to find restaurants, we had a wealth of options between the train station and two large buildings we were connected to. We settled on a conveyor belt sushi restaurant on the 7th floor of one of these buildings. It was outstanding. It really blew us away. We devoured 12 plates of various delicious sushi dishes. We were stuffed!
We stumbled back to our hotel room, I did a bit of laundry and we were off to sleep. We had what we expected to be a fun activity planned the next day. Something we booked months in advance. We’d have to be up early to make sure we get off in time to make our booked time. What are we going to get up to in the next episode?
There were several locations featured in this episode
- Miyamaso Takamiya Ryokan – A ryokan with 300 years of history where we’d stay for 2 nights.
- Shin-Osaka Station – A major hub for Shinkansen.
- Osaka Station – An expansive train station complex where you could easily spend days and not being able to see everything it has to offer.
- InterContrinental Osaka – Our home in Osaka for 5 nights, conveniently located and attached to Osaka Station.
- Kantaro Hakodate – An amazing conveyor belt sushi restaurant where we stuffed ourselves to end our day.
Thanks for watching/reading!