Day 63, November 2016,
Hokusai Museum in Obuse
On a cold morning of chill rain and biting wind, we, wisely, decide to pay a visit to the Hokusai museum. This museum turns out to be an unexpected delight. I had no idea that Hokusai, in his later years, visited and worked in Obuse, with the help of a local patron. The variations of style exhibited here are truly stunning. The work of a genius or an “old man mad about art”. I recommend a visit to this small wonder of a museum.
＊Hokusai museum ; 1000 yen/adult
Snow Monkeys 野猿公苑
From Hokusai we turn our attention to the, almost as famous, snow monkeys. This is a timely visit, as it snowing gently and the mountains and hills are brushed white. We walk through cedar woods along a path that, although mainly gravelled, was very muddy and a scramble at times.
After about 30 minutes’ walk we come across a small ryokan (Japanese style hotel) on the other side of a stream. A few score metres further up the steep valley, there is an obviously man- made outside bath or rotenburo. I had assumed that the onsen bath the monkeys used was a natural feature but, it would appear that it was appropriated.
Across a footbridge, over the stream, we can walk right up to the bath. The monkeys relax in the tub or wander through the legs of franticly photographing people; serenely unconcerned with the affairs of men. There is snow falling but not enough to render the whole scene picturesque. The deep contentment of the monkeys immersed in the hot water is a sight to behold and we snap and snap. The falling snow and rising steam make clear images difficult, or perhaps, it is the over excitement of the photographer.
＊Yaen Koen (wild monkey park) ; 800 yen/adult
Michi-no-eki (road station)
It is getting late and we still have a long way to go. Reluctantly, we leave the immersed monkeys and walk back to the van through not, snow covered, but, snow sprinkled, woods.
The drive to Mimaki, our michi-no-eki, is a slow crawl in dense, single file traffic, mile after mile but eventually we arrive at our destination. This turns out to be a large, pitch dark, largely empty truck park. I do locate a toilet which has automatic lighting but D. finds the place too dark and lonely. Avoid Mimaki michi no eki if you plan to stay the night.
So, on I drive to another michi-no-eki ‘Raiden kurumi no sato‘ (pref. R. 79). This has no onsen and is more like a service area, full of trucks with the highway clearly audible. It is cold, 2 degrees, when we arrive a little before 7 pm. I can feel the cold creeping into my legs as I write this.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.