Radon is like a different world. Radon is the most traditional and the best location that we have seen and I have no problem seeing why people would want to stay there. It’s in a beautiful valley, the outdoor bath is spectacular.
Staying at Kanshichiyu, the owners are lovely, but the property is shabby, and there’s not a lot there that a Western tourist would be looking for.
When we went into the spotless rooms at Naruko Kankou, THOSE would appeal to a Western sensibility, as would the rooms at Chuubachi, which is smaller and more traditional.
It’s the ones in-between that are a hard sell: Kanshichiyu, Ohnuma, the other ryokan in Higashi-Naruko. There is no beautiful valley, they aren’t modern. They need to go one way or the other. Either try to be very traditional, like Radon (throw out the TVs?) or spruce themselves up at least…
There are places struggling even more… we are staying at Kanshichiyu and Ohnuma’s places because they know Taka, and Taka knows them because they are doing interesting things. They have a liveliness caused by their active owners. There are ones that none of us have seen struggling even more…
In the afternoon, we went to Hell Valley in Onikoube. I was first there in March, where we couldn’t get anywhere near and had to walk through 2 feet of snow. Although everything was covered in snow, the boardwalk was clear and living moss was on the rocks. While walking through and watching the geyers and gushing, it is easy to imagine what it looked like when people stumbled upon Naruko 1000 years ago. It’s a very powerful place, you feel very close to the earth, like the energy of the earth is trying to burst out of its skin, but instead of a huge explosion, it seeps and it pops. This scaldingly hot water, coming out at 70 degrees Celsius can be used in such a positive way, that it can health people, provide for leaisure and relaxation, and a source of wonderful alternative energy. There is a geothermal plant in Onikoube and its not a stretch to think of the hot springs being tapped in a way to provide cheap, clean energy in the way that Iceland does. Although there weren’t many cars in the lot, 3 or 4 groups passed us as we were photographing. It’s a lush green valley, like something out of Jurrasic Park, brilliant shades of green from the plants and the moss on the rocks. While that may be what Naruko looked like in ancient times, even if everything fades away and the ryokan fall into this ground, this is what Naruko will look like again, the people and the tourism may come and go, but the natural wonder of it all will remain.
August 9, 2010