Hospitality

The Warm Hospitality of the Snow Country

01-01-2011

The Warm Hospitality of the Snow Country

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Japan’s regions are rich in unique seasonal expressions. In the snow country, this very oment people are braving the snow and living together with the snow. The city of Minamiuonuma in Niigata Prefecture is one of the snowiest districts in Japan. Although it is only about two hours away from Tokyo by train, the snowy scenery all around gives visitors the feeling that they have arrived in an unknown world. In this issue, IHCSA Café introduces the hospitality and wintry elegance of two hot-spring ryokan in this district: Irorian, which is located in the town of Muika-machi in Minamiuonuma and is surrounded by mountain valley nature, and Ryugon, which has superb buildings reconstructed from the residences of village headmen and wealthy farmers in Echigo (present-day Niigata Prefecture).

 

Buried snugly in snow: Irorian

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Enjoy the snow as you please

The snow in this region usually lies more than two meters deep and creates a silvery white world spreading out in all directions. Piling up much higher than the human body, the heavy snow mercilessly puts pressure on both people and things. Nevertheless, the experience of being enveloped by snow is magical. Especially on a night with a full moon in a cloudless sky, the sight of sparkling blue moonlight reflected off the snow is simply indescribable. And although the winter in this region is certainly harsh, the severity is relatively mild. There are actually very few blizzards; the snow seems to wrap around you like fluffy down. It is, therefore, a good region for people living in big cities and not so accustomed to snow to visit.
The hot-spring ryokan Irorian at Uenohara Kogen Onsen is buried snugly in snow as well. People who come here for the snow use Irorian as a base from where to go out and enjoy the snow to their heart’s content, walking around fields of untrodden new snow or strolling through snowy forests following the footprints of animals. Guests are recommended to wear the traditional snowshoes rented out by the ryokan to prevent their feet from sinking into the snow. The paddy field behind the ryokan has been developed as a kid’s playground especially for family guests. Both children and their parents completely forget about the passage of time as they have fun in the snow, joyfully riding on sledges or building snowmen. Some people put on hooded straw raincoats and become snow fairies. There is also a kamakura (snow hut) with room for about 10 people. You can enjoy a very memorable time in the late afternoon here, enjoying the toasted rice cakes and shiruko porridge that are served in this hut. The snow lanterns in front of the ryokan‘s entrance greet guests arriving after dark with an air of fantasy.

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