A Traditional Japanese Mountain Spa

Through the kindness of Fuji Television, our first two nights in Hokkaido were at the Hotel Daiichi, nestled in the interior mountains. Unbelievable is the only way to describe this elegant and restful place.

A small inn with a large heart, it sits along a creek snaking past an autumn-treed hillside. Directly across the creek is a rock outcropping steaming in the coolness, the source of a natural hot springs. It's owner and manager, Matsumi Haegawa, (46) was born and raised in the nearby farming communities and began the hotel in 1972.

We were shown to our rooms, the penthouse of the place. On the second floor it was a suite of two adjoining rooms. Salli's and mine were spectacular. A quiet entry with an adjoining room in which was the most high-tech zoomy toilet any of us had ever seen (a wall-mounted control panel provided a variety of choices of toilet seat heat, sprays and air blowers for you—and us—to guess about).

Then came the bedroom, with two large beds, a high-tech night stand with controls for all the lighting and overhead speakers with a range of music choices. Shoji screens slid back to reveal the main sitting room, as elegant and tasteful as any tea house, and a large picture window overlooking the natural wonders of the creek. This room then led to the shower and dressing rooms which opened out on to the porch with its own natural cedar wood hot tub. The girls' room, although not nearly as large, was equally wonderful.

Cassidy in a Japanese Kimono

We wasted no time doffing our travel rags and plunging into the tub. The sun was setting and the night was cooling, but the warm waters revived us quickly. Sitting in our porch tub we watched as thousands of crows streamed across the sky to roost in two trees on the nearby ridge across the river.

"The sky becomes pale,
As the morning crows spread wing,
As it's always been."

A raucous group, they cawed and clambered with each other for half an hour before taking their final wing at sunset to some more hidden roost in the forest. Below us a large red fox emerged from the brush and searched the creek for an evening meal.

We too joined in this pursuit, and found waiting for us downstairs a table set from one end to the other with the most amazing feast. We dined, slowly, oohing and ahhing constantly at the amazing tastes. And after this feast "fit for royalty" we returned to our rooms to prepare for yet another evening bath. This time Salli and I chose to go to the public pools downstairs. Inside a large steamy room were two baths a little smaller than an Arizona swimming pool—each a different temperature. Outside were two more pools made from natural stones and hidden behind clouds of steam.

The result of our evening of relaxation, dinning and bathing was to wash away the last vestige of jet lag, travel weariness and homesickness. In a kind of ritualistic way, we were cleaned and centered for our next phase of our trip—to the Kingdom of Mutsuguro.

Home :: About :: Journals
If you'd like to write to George, Salli, Samantha or Cassidy, drop them a line!

Copyright 1996 - 2011 - No form of usage or reproduction allowed without express written permission