Photo album

IMG_0846 This day in the quaint, quiet ski village and hot spring mecca called Nozawaonsen will undoubtedly remain at the very top of my list of favorite days for the remainder of the trip.

We woke up to the smell of breakfast cooking in the kitchen downstairs and the friendly bark of the beagle who is part of the family that runs the lodge. After scarfing down eggs, ham, salad, and lots of bread and coffee/tea, we got some things together and headed down the steep hill to the center of town. We walked around exploring the town for a couple of hours. Nozawaonsen considers itself the home of Japanese skiing, and must be an absolute madhouse in the winter. However, on a Monday in May we seemed to be the only tourists. We ducked into little shops selling all kinds of local delicacies, got some ice cream, and then decided to check out one of the 13 free hot spring houses this town is famous for.

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Having breakfast at our cozy mountain lodge. Since this is the off-season and it was a monday, we were the only guests at this cute family-run place.


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This cute dog faithfully guarded the lodge outside.

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Hilly, narrow streets of Nozawaonsen.

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Mom teaching her daughter how to garden.

We briefly dipped our feet in the “foot bath” outside, but after getting some funny looks from the locals walking by, decided it may be more of a tourist trap than a legitimate hot spring with health benefits, as many of them claim to be due to the minerals in the water. We then tried he hot spring that was listed in the guide book. Kelly enjoyed his, but I had trouble staying in for very long because the water was so hot! It was still a fun experience, but I couldn’t last as long as I usually do in the regular public baths, which are not quite as hot.

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Awkward self-timer picture in the foot bath.

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One of the most popular hot springs... women on one side, men on the other.

After walking around a little more, Kelly said he needed to “take care of lunch”, so I went on to another hot spring building to give it one more try. I enjoyed this one much more because I was the only one in there, and I was actually able to sneak a couple of pictures, which has been tough to do in other baths since they are usually filled with naked women :) The water was even hotter in this one though, and no matter how hard I tried to get in and tell myself that it must be safe to do this, I just could not last for more than a few seconds. So I decided to just sit by the side of the pool, splash some warm water on myself, and enjoy the peace and quiet for a while.

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Hot!

I met Kelly outside, holding several grocery bags that he said I was not allowed to look at. I was not very suspicious at this point because he loves to surprise me with interesting food, so this was nothing knew. I followed him up the very steep hill back towards our lodge (yes, our accomodations are always at the top of a steep hill!), and thought we might just eat on the nice grassy area right in front of the lodge. Kelly, however, insisted on hiking up some more mountains in front of the lodge to have our picnic. I was too relaxed from all the hot springs to argue, so I very slowly made my way up the hill behind him. He made me sit downhill from him while he prepared the picnic, so I read the guidebook, and then dozed off for a little while. When he finally called me up there, I was half expecting to find a fully cooked meal, since it did take quite a while. Instead, I found a perfect little display of many of my favorite snacks, but I was a little confused because nothing looked like it could have taken more than 5 minutes to set up. I figured he was probably taking the time to slice the cherry tomatoes into perfect halves (not a stretch for anyone who knows him:)), and sat down to enjoy some delicious snacks and a large can of Asahi.

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Hillside near the lodge... looks like a fun place to ski in the winter!

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A perfect little picnic lunch

We had a great lunch and sat and talked for a while, loving the views of the mountains and the peace and quiet. When Kelly said he had something for me and gave me a big wrapped box, the first words out of my mouth were “oooh, is this dessert?” I’ve been slightly obsessed with all the amazing sweets they sell here, and have enjoyed being able to try so many different things without feeling guilty. I impatiently unwrapped the box and popped open the lid, but something seemed out of place… there was a red box in the middle! He had cut out the middle of the mochi box and placed it there – that’s why it took him a while to get the picnic ready. I opened the box and saw a beautiful ring inside… and the rest is history :)

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We're engaged!

We celebrated our engagement that night with an amazing traditional Japanese dinner at the lodge. The first people we told were actually the women who ran the lodge… they were so incredibly sweet and we figured it would make them happy. Kelly had no idea how to say “engaged” or “proposed” in Japanese, so he tried explaining it in multiple ways and I tried to show them the ring, but all we got were politely confused, blank faces. When he finally said “proposed” in English with a Japanese accent, we had a breakthrough! (The Japanese use a lot of English words, slightly altered to sound Japanese.) They screamed and laughed, took a picture of us and said “congratulations” over and over… it was great to have a little celebration, since we were away from our friends and families.

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Course #1

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This guy is not very happy about being eaten.

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One of the friendly hosts at Hahnemann Lodge.

We’re having a great trip and enjoying having all this time together. Very much looking forward to the next few weeks in northern Honshu and especially Hokkaido, and also can’t wait to get home and see everyone and celebrate (ideally, with some pizza and microbrews).