July 23, 2008,08:57 +0900(JST) Yamagata Ginzan-Onsen Hot Spring Trip
I reported in a blog entry last year that my wife and I, with three couples of friends, enjoyed a two-day trip to Kushiro Marshland, Hokkaido, immediately after the shareholders general meeting.
This year, we organized and took a trip to Ginzan-Onsen Hot Spring in Yamagata Prefecture on July 5 and 6, immediately after the shareholders general meeting, as we did last year.
The four couples decided to make this one a “freewheeling” trip, in which we say whatever we feel, eat and drink as much as we like and play to our heart’s content. We understand each other’s positions and feelings very well. When we drank, we had endless things to talk about, maybe because we usually spend stressful days. I enjoyed the trip very much.
We take turns in organizing trips.
Our travel itinerary always includes a round of golf for the men, while the wives go sightseeing. For the rest of the itinerary, we visit places of scenic and historical interest together.
This journey’s main features were a stay at Ginzan Onsen, a hot spring resort with the atmosphere of the romanticism of the Taisho period (1912 - 1926), a trip to a silver mine site, which produced high-quality silver for 400 years, and a boat ride on the Mogami River, site of one of the most famous poems of haiku poet Basho: “Samidare wo / Atsumete hayashi / Mogamigawa (The summer rains / Gathering swift / Mogami River)” (In The Narrow Road to the Deep North).
The original version, with “cool (suzushi)” instead of “swift (hayashi),” was a greeting poem for his host at a linked verse party gathering in Obanazawa, where Basho had a long stay. Basho wrote this poem to express his appreciation for the host’s kind hospitality. In response, the host wrote a splendid poem depicting Basho’s stay as the gleams of fireflies: “Kishi ni hotaru wo / Tsunagu funagui (Fireflies at the riverside / Moored to a mooring post).”
We also wanted to remain moored to the post longer, but we knew we could not do so.
The itinerary also included the Satonishiki (the famed variety of cherries) cherry picking and a visit to Risshakuji mountain temple, another site of a famous Basho’s poem: “Shizukasa ya / Iwa ni shimiiru / Semi no koe (The stillness / Seeping into the rocks / The chirping of cicadas).” To reach the main temple, visitors ascend 1,015 stone steps. The itinerary was very tight.
These destinations seem to represent the diversity of purpose of tours that travelers of about our age seek, which makes me smile a wry smile.
Now, I would like to briefly write about Ginzan Onsen.
The hot-spring town is located in Obanazawa City, the birthplace of the traditional Japanese folk dance song “Hanagasa Ondo.” Fourteen Japanese-style inns (three- or four-storied wooden buildings) line both banks of the Ginzan River, a clean stream five to six meters wide. In some of smaller inns, visitors can take a long stay for a hot-spring cure. At the fall of evening, gas lights are lit. I felt I had gone back to the romantic Taisho period by time machine. Of course, I have never experienced Taisho days. If someone asks me if I am sure, I will not be able to confidently answer “yes.” At least I can say for sure that the streets are not modern.
Even in the inn room, I could hear the clattering of wooden clogs on the stone-paved road as guests took strolls nearby inn, seeking the evening cool. In addition, the nostalgic croaking of kajika frogs helped stage a summer evening in a mountain town.
We stayed at Notoya Ryokan, the oldest inn in the hot spring area, on Saturday. We enjoyed watching till late at night the locals do a traditional Hanagasa dance on one of the bridges across the Ginzan River. This event is organized by the Ginzan Onsen Resort Association on weekend nights in summer.
This concludes my report on our “refreshment of spirit” tour.