First Impressions of Zao Onsen

After the short bus ride into Zao Onsen, a quick visit into the tourist information centre resulted in the hotels shuttle van being sent straight up to collect us. We were ushered into the van with the driver insisting to load our bags, so as to not cause insult we went along. After arriving at the hotel and having him carry out bags into the lobby (again he insisted) we proceeded to check in. The young girl behind the counter escorted us to our room, and also insisted on pushing the trolley with the bags on it. The room is average size, with 3 beds, shower and toilet, what else could we want? How about some awesome views being on the top (6th) floor (see photos). With nobody haven eaten, we wandered off into the town for a browse and in search for a snack. We also started to enquire about the hiring of skis and poles, and the first thing we found was the very limited (or non existent) english skills which made some of the conversations quite interesting. We did find a little very bakery after a bit of a search, and was able to communicate in single words as to the ingredients. This was enough to fill our hunger urges until dinner time. We also found some interesting smells walking around the town, like rotten egg gas, which is actually the high sulfur content in the hot spring waters used for the onsen baths throughout Zao (see photos). After a bit of lazing around back at the hotel we headed down to the restaurant for the first of our included dinners having no idea what we were going to be fed. What we found was an already prepared table full of Japanese foods, and with the hot plates on the table fired up we were ready to cook. There were a few interesting and questionable looking things on the plates, however we gave most of them a go and only had a few screwed up faces. One thing we have noticed so far is we are the only foreigners in town, however this was not totally unexpected as I had read this before we left that foreigners were a rarity. I guess this is the reason for the very limited english skills. They were also very surprised that we said we were skiing for a week; I have read the resort is basically empty during the week. After an evening beer sitting sitting in the lobby (which is a perfect time to write this blog), it was time to call it a night in preparation for our first day skiing tomorrow.

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