Itsumi and I had our own celebration just before Christmas. We took a trip to Yudanaka, where Japan’s famous snow monkeys live. The snow monkeys are Japanese macaques, and they live farther north than other monkeys in the world. The particular macaques that we visited love to soak in the natural hot springs near Yudanaka, where they are photographed by tourist paparazzi. We particularly liked the babies, and also one very old macaque who looked barely alive, but who seemed to enjoy the healthful aspects of the spa.
After hiking up the mountain to see the snow monkeys, we checked into our ryokan, or traditional Japanese lodging. Itsumi had made a reservation, getting a great deal through an internet sale site. When we arrived, the hotel clerk told us that she was so sorry that there had been a plumbing problem and our room wasn’t available. Instead, they would move us into another section of the hotel. This other section turned out to be a very expensive, beautiful and traditional section, and we had an entire suite to ourselves but still for the low price!
Our ryokan had many different onsens, or hot spring baths, some outdoors and some inside. There were different sections for the men and for the women, and everybody switched twice a day. Our room included thirty minutes in a private bath, which was large enough for an entire party! This is the private bath. I couldn't take the picture of the much more beautiful public baths, because naked people were soaking in them! Below are the showers in the private bath.
Ryokans with hot springs provide traditional robes and jackets which guests can wear in the dining room and everywhere in the hotel, and even in the village if it's warm enough. We returned to Tokyo on Christmas Eve night, so I got to feel like I definitely had a celebration even though it wasn’t the usual Christmas celebration!