Yesterday's ride left my adrenaline high and my body sore. That was the first moto ride I've done in a while. And my lap times showed...
Regardless, it was awesome to check out such a well-known track in this part of the world and see how it stacks up with other tracks I've been through in the states.
As for today's activities, I'm going to shift gears and treat myself to a day of R&R at the Ginzan Onsen.
This place is particularly famous for having an entire resort, styled in the vein of an old traditional Japanese inn.
The environment looks to be lost in time, as the architecture is a call back to early 20th-century styling and aesthetic.
For the uninitiated, Onsen's are hot springs that are commonly used in resort/spa-type accommodations.
Japan is famous for its abundance of them and from my research, the Ginzan Onsen appears to be one of the best. I can't wait to see it first hand and take a dip.
The GPS is telling me that I have about a 2-hour ride to the Onsen, so it appears that I'll get a break from longer rides today.
Considering the action I took part in yesterday, I'm fine with a slight get away from anything with a motor.
Speaking of which, it appears that I'll have to park the DZed at a designated parking lot outside of the Onsen.
The entire place doesn't allow vehicles on the premises and preserves its old school feel by encouraging its visitors to walk about the village-like setup.
The Onsen is located in the Yamagata Prefecture, which is northwest of Sendai. The name Ginzan Onsen translates to "Silver Mountain Hot Spring".
This area was originally developed as a Silver Mine. The mountainous region provides a nice backdrop for the nestled, rustic scenery.
The only thing to make it better will be a nice plunge into one of the springs and a few shots of Sake.
As I arrive at the designated parking space, I grab my belongings and say manana to the DZed.
The short bus ride over to the Onsen gives me a moment to think about all of the things I want to do today.
Aside from the obvious attraction, the area also provides tours of the old silver mine, a walking trail to a nearby waterfall, and a variety of local cuisine to pick from.
While the waterfall sounds like a nice sight, I'm not in the mood for that or a silver mine in today's agenda.
The bus rolls up to the edge of the Onsen and I'm immediately met with a picturesque blast from the past.
In going with the older theme of the onsen, most of the buildings are constructed with architecture from yesteryear.
The traditional, wooden structures are married with perfectly aligned gas lights along the brisk, flowing river in the middle of town.
I'm glad I made a reservation at a Ryokan here tonight, as the sight of this place at night is something to behold.
After checking in, I change into the Yukata "bathrobe" that they gave me and head to the Onsen.
Seeing as Ginzan has several Onsen's on the property, it's common to see visitors scurrying between places wearing their Yukata.
I decided to try out a private spring first, as the quiet and serenity of it seemed like a good way to start the cleanse.
One thing that most foreigners don't realize about Onsen's is that they are largely gender-segregated.
Many accommodations in Japan operate under that rule, so I'm not surprised to see that extended to their spas.
One step into the first spring and I can already feel a shift in my mood. The clean, soft boiling feel of the water immediately sends a relieving sensation throughout my body.
In the heat of the moment (sorry, couldn't help myself), most of my running thoughts are slowed to a halt.
Any concern or question I have about my trip is put aside in favor of the relaxing, bubbling treatment I'm undergoing.
This particular Onsen is called a "kashikiri". These are hot springs set aside for individuals or small groups of people to enjoy, without sacrificing the privacy of their experience.
I decided it was better to try it alone first before I jump headfirst into the public springs. While the privacy is nice, Kashikiri's are meant for short stays and are often booked up.
As my time passes, I move over to one of the public Onsens (otherwise known as Rotenburo). These types of springs are out in the open but still tucked away to let visitors take in the outdoors.
This Onsen doesn't have any time limit, so I'm going to let the spring melt away my afternoon.
They embrace the winter months here, as there are snowflake-themed designed etched into the tiles along the street.
I suppose if I had a place like this to stay in every winter, I'd embrace it, too. The seconds of warm relief turns into hours of relaxation.
I couldn't help but try out every public spot, taking in the beauty of my surroundings in the process.
Perhaps it's the fact that this place is built around natural hot springs that re-affirms this belief,
but I can't help but think that this place is a true gem and an ideal way for people to naturally cleanse themselves.
I can't think of a processed, man-made product that would provide the kind of mood-altering, cleaning experience.
After yesterday's demanding rides, this was the perfect antidote to the residual soreness. Make no doubt about this, I'm visiting another Onsen before I see you in Okinawa.
After spending the afternoon rotating between Onsen's and walking about the town, I check out one of their local restaurants for what looks to be a promising feast.
One of the first things I saw on the menu was the famous "Wagyu" beef. Without hesitation, I select the rare kind of beef, paired with a bowl of juicy Soba Noodles.
This slice of beef is unlike any cut of meat I've had before. This brand of beef is famous around the globe for its rich, marbled texture and its rapidly dissolving, flavorful taste.
Before my teeth sink too far into the beef, it melts its way into my taste buds.
As someone that's been able to sample a lot of different kinds of beef, this one has the most tender feel and savory taste.
Add in the Soba Noodles and my body is quickly replenished with essential proteins and carbohydrates.
Before the day draws to a close, I head back to my room and picked up my ax.
I'm not forgetting my end of the bargain, so I spent the rest of this peaceful day picking away at any melodies that might radiate from this place.
The relaxing, snow-themed aesthetic of this place seems to be bringing out a few minor 7th phrases, with some upbeat chords thrown in.
A place like this reminds me to never underestimate my surroundings, as an artist, and to take note of anything that can spark inspiration.
The Ginzan Onsen is a place that not only cleanses you, physically but can inspire, creatively.
With all of that said, this day of successful R&R has come to an end.
Tomorrow, I'm going to wrap up my time in the region by heading over to the Fukushima Prefecture and checking out the Aizu Wakamatsu Castle. Enjoy the melodies and I'll see you soon!