Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Visiting Bessho in the Japanese Alps

Welcome to readers from Myanmar and Namibia

Bessho, Ueda.

The Asama shinkansen from Ueno station Tokyo took a supremely comfortable hour to roll into Ueda City. From there a small, six carriage, narrow gauge train called the Dentetsu took me on the thirty minute ride to the village of Bessho. I was there to feel the contrast with Tokyo’s greater metropolitan district populated by 44 million people and to visit the best example of a wooden temple in Japan.

Even though Bessho had a population of 2361 people only a handful people were visible at any one time. It was quiet.


Image result for bessho hot springs

At Uematsuya Ryokan

What a nice surprise

A matcha tea served within moments of my arrival

The food at Uematsuya is outstanding. To stay for one night with breakfast and dinner cost around $60. 

If you like matcha green tea visit: Making matcha in Uji, Kyoto

Here's something about staying in a Japanese Style Room. The flooring will be tatami (reed mats). When you enter the room you will see a low table with cushions around it. Before you go to bed this table will be moved and your bedding will be prepared in the same location. You room may contain some or all of the following, depending on the style, design, and expense of the ryokan. · agari-kamachi - after opening the door guests step into this small area and take off their slippers (do not wear your slippers on the tatami) · shoji - sliding Japanese doors that separate the agari-kamachi from the room · tatami - reed mat flooring · zataku – low, often wooden table · zabuton - sitting cushions · futon - sleeping quilts · tokonoma - an ornamental alcove built into the wall, used for placing flower vases and hanging scrolls · oshiire - a closet for futon sleeping quilts · engawa - enclosed sitting area separated from the room by shoji

Bessho Onsen

These figures sit in the forest at the bottom of the steps up to the Anraku-ji temple

Listening to: Bach's Chaconne in D minor arranged by Leopold Stokowski

Dinner at Uematsuya

Sumo hotpot

After dinner Hoji-cha

Even though it doesn't look it - Hojicha is a light, mild, smoky tea good for the digestion. 

The tea is a lower grade of tea known as bancha, a roasted green tea with low astringency. 


Just 300 metres uphill from Uematsuya lies the Anraku-ji Buddhist temple. There are few sights in Bessho but therein lies its beauty. Its alpine appointment, pretty local flowers and other Alpine flora. A few public onsen and the one located in my ryokan.


The only remaining wooden temple in Japan

When Japanese tourists visit Florence in Italy they have been known to faint at the beauty around them. They end up at the local hospital behind the railway station. I didn't faint in Japan but somehow felt bloated with the richness of what I saw. The beauty there has a purity difficult to put into words. Japan can appear inexpressible at the bottom. Describable yes but its spirit elusive. Regarded holistically Japan is a touch stultifying. It's impression needs to be reduced into working parts, stumbled upon scenarios and more then can be made of it.

One of the great things about Japanese inns is that your room carries a personal caddy of fresh green sencha tea, kettle and kyushu tea pot. 

Drinking tea and writing something is close to perfect. That beautiful taste again, rich umami, deeply satisfying. 

Mount Hotaka 3190 metres and the 3rd highest mountain in Japan

Happy travelling!

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