Stay!By Mitsuko Totani
Takamine Onsen - Seeking High Ground
On the border of Gunma and Nagano prefectures sits Mt. Asama, an active volcano still intermittently bellowing smoke. Looking up from the Nagano side of Mt. Asama is the Takamine Highlands, 2,000 meters above sea level. It is known for its grand variety of high altitude vegetation and has also gained notoriety as a hot spot for winter sports and year-round hiking. Two pleasant retreats can be found in the highlands, one of which is Takamine Hot Springs.
"Welcome!" shouts the staff, with smiles as wide as the welcome mat. During winter a natural gas fireplace flickers in the lobby and more than several exquisite lamps hang from the open ceiling, casting a warm orange glow throughout the lodge. Rooms are simple, but the windows act as picture frames for the scenic views provided to each guest. On a clear night, rooms on the “city-side” can look down upon the town of Komoro. Yet, considering the altitude, the view above the sea of clouds could be the more sought-after vista.
The viewing room "Morning Mist" has binoculars at every window for searching out wild birds and other animals. Feeders are set out in winter to draw close a variety of birds and squirrels, as well as the occasional Japanese mink, marten and antelope. The viewing room and the hot springs are open to guests even after check-out, a plus for those wanting to relax after enjoying the great outdoors or before boarding the bus.
Environmentally friendly water for the next generation
Each generation of inn keeper has added its own personal touch to the lodge's operation since its beginnings in the Meiji Era.
The fourth, and latest proprietor, Hideo Goto, is putting great effort into making the business as "green" as can be. Part of that pledge is the decision not to use detergents or cleaning solvents, preferring instead "revitalized water" to wash away grime. Takamine asks all guests to refrain from using shampoo and soap and wash themselves in the heated "revitalized water." I followed orders and found sweat and grime are no match for the revitalizing power of the highland spring.
It is said the cycle of waste water returning to the water basin and coming back to life in the hot springs takes 40 years.
Goto emphasizes this process in stating, "We want to leave pure water for the next generation." Let's do our best to follow his lead.
Three-Season Access By Car: From Tokyo get on the Nerima I.C. toward the Fujioka Junction to Komoro I.C. Follow the Asama Sunline. Pass through the Takatsuya Tunnel and take an immediate right on the Cherry Park Line continuing onto Takamine Hot Springs.
By Train and Bus: From Tokyo Station to Sakadaira Station via the Nagano Shinkansen. From there take the JR Takamine Highland bus (60 minutes). The same bus leaves from Komoro Station on the Shinano Train Line (45 minutes).
Winter Access (Nov. 21 to April 20)
By Car: Once in the Komoro area, take the road to Asama 2000 Ski Resort, park in the #3 Parking Lot and board the snow cat for Takamine.
By Train and Bus: Board the Asama 2000 Ski Resort bus at either Sakadaira or Komoro Station. At the resort board the snow cat bound for Takamine.
Address: Takamine Highlands, Komoro, Nagano 384-0041
Tel: (0267) 25-2000
Fax: (0267) 22-5331