Up until this point, most mornings here in Japan have started as early as I could get a peek of sunlight. Today, I strayed from that alpha-type tradition.
In the sunken sheets of my Futon, I partook in every minute of sleep that I could at the Ryokan.
Perhaps the locals were right, as the soothing spring waters here Kusatsu provided me with a night of sleep for the ages.
Before I fully rose into consciousness, I retrieved the tomagos I bought last night. The spring-boiled eggs seem to wash down nicely with some cold coffee from a nearby vending machine.
Maybe a good night's sleep enhances the flavor in everything, but something as simple as eggs or coffee in this scenery is the right way to start every morning.
On the agenda for today is to take a quick jaunt up the road to Mt. Shirane, the source of this bubbling spring water.
This active volcano is a popular hiking location for tourists, as the area is not too far from the Hot Spring resort that brings many of us up to this Prefecture.
Because the volcano is still active, the trails around the area are subject to close at any time. The last eruption here was as recent as a few years ago.
For that reason, I want to take advantage of the opportunity and see Mt. Shirane now before there's another closure.
It looks like the Mt. is roughly 45 minutes from the Onsen, today should be a quick trip.
Before I head out of Kusatsu, I make sure to soak up the rest of my allotted time in the Onsen town and refresh myself before I make the drive up.
It'll be hard to trade in the fresh, comfortable environment of the Onsen for the Sulfur laden smells of the Volcano, but not every sight is going to share all-encompassing beauty.
Before I head out, I make one quick inspection of the front tire. A flat tire or tube is one thing, but having damage to the rim would be a whole other can of worms.
Having such troubles in this location, at elevation, would just torpedo any remaining plans on my itinerary.
Fortunately, there appears to be no stress or damage on the rim and the DZed is primed for another sprint on the highway.
The short jaunt up to the Mt. passes and I get a scope of the magnitude that is this volcano. The over-mile high range provides so much more for the locals than just hot water.
It also lends itself to being a popular skiing and hiking attraction. The cool thing about this volcano is the craters that are formed around it.
Because of the high acidity in the water and obvious smells of sulfur, these lakes are inhabitable and are not to be consumed.
Perhaps the stink of this place will be the small price to pay for some great photography.
The rocky trails around Mt. are well-manicured, considering the locale. The changing elevation seems to be smoothed over by the raked-out trails.
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, as everything appears to be maintained to a peak level here in Japan.
As I work my way along the trail, I eventually come across the lake that has the biggest reputation here on the Mt. Yugama Lake is infamous for its toxic presence.
Because of its proximity to the volcano and highly sulfuric activity, the lake has been rendered useless for creating a habitat and is considered to be the "most acidic lake" in the country.
Despite the putrid activity, the view of the lake is still one that's not one that you'll see every day.
Those chemicals, regardless of their effect, illuminate the lake with a thick shade of turquoise. It's surreal to see such a contradiction between something so toxic, yet be so radiant.
It's a good reminder that nature finds a way to shape its own beauty, regardless of how smelly or foul it might be.
I eventually navigate my way through the different trails and take in the different angles of the mountain. I'm fortunate to have been here during this time, as the summit of the Mt.
was closed for some time.
Since the last eruption, large crowds and even some trails have been off-limits.
The people who take care of the area have taken great steps to make sure the trails are safe, going as far as declaring "volcanic alert levels" to notify visitors of the current sitting.
There is a rest house towards the end of one trail, so I finished my visit with a stop there. While inside, I begin to reflect on the terrain I was just on.
Like this volcano, life can sometimes be volatile and unpredictable.
In a place that doesn't appear to be safe to visit, we find a way to make the most of the things in front of us and live with such spontaneity.
Sometimes, you can't run from something dangerous. Part of life is working through unpredictability and instability.
If anything, the people of Kusatsu have shown me how to roll with the punches. When life hands you a volcano, use the hot springs to your advantage.
Humans can be so malleable. Perhaps my greatest takeaway from the Gunma Prefecture is just that.
If I've learned anything in the last 36 hours, it's to make the best of a bad situation and to not let something derail your plans.
Introspective rhetoric aside, the day is coming to a close. I pull away from the lava-filled mountain range and check into my hotel for the night.
Tomorrow, I'll be exploring the city of Chichibu. This will wrap up my time in the Kanto Plain before I finally head my way down to Tokyo.
I can already see those stereotypical bright lights hypnotizing me and further enabling my hunger for adventure.
Thanks again and I'll see you soon!