Exploring Zao Onsen

After hanging out in the hotel for a little while following my failed first skiing attempt, I headed off for a walk through the town looking for any souvenirs. I didn’t find much, but then didn’t expect to given its not a foreign tourist town. I ended up running into Denise and Scott (my aunt and uncle who I came with on the trip) who were just coming back in from the slopes. After ditching their gear back at the hotel we headed off for another wander through the town and ended up in the bakery again for some pastries and hot drinks. With nobody else in there (don’t think it gets very busy), and even though he has limited English, you can still get through an interesting question/answer conversation with a little bit of patience from both sides. The next stop further in the town required a climb up the hill to the local shrine. It was not until about half way up we decided it probably wasn’t such a good idea given the stairs resembled a slippery slide covered in snow. Luckily there was a hand rail which we could use at times to basically drag ourselves. At the top we found some deep and untouched snow which made for some good snow angels and yeti/bigfoot/abominable snow man footprints as a gift to the locals (see photos), but the question now was how to get back down. Rather than attempt the same path we followed the road and found ourselves in another part of the town which we had not yet explored or even knew existed. Following the roads out eventually led us back down to the bottom of the hill and back to the hotel, a much easier route than the way up. Denise and I decided to check out the massage chairs before dinner which proved a challenge given the LCD screen remote has all its menus in Japanese. A few presses of this button and a few presses of that button made the chair spring to life which then resulted in a few moans and groans when the chair decided to punch you in the back. This just means we will have to use it a few more times to master the controls. Dinner tonight proved as interesting as the night before, another cook it yourself style Japanese feast, however this time the main dish was to be boiled. The other courses also differed from last night, again with some very interesting food items with everyone guessing as to what they might be (I think it could be safer not to know). After dinner Denise and I decided to take a night walk through the town and found it very deserted with only the occasional person seen and all the shops and restaurants closed. I guess people are more sensible than to go out at night in sub zero temperatures. It did prove for a few childish dares and photos though with what we have termed “face planting”. See the photos and you will know what I mean. Hopefully this will start the next craze of people doing stupid things.