How to Higaeri Onsen – Director’s Commentary

How to Higaeri Onsen from Daniel Morales on Vimeo.

00:30 The music is Beck’s “Hollow Log” from the album One Foot In The Grave. Beck was the first band (musician?) I listened to intensely. Back in middle school I got the album Odelay in a soccer team Christmas present exchange. I have his entire catalog including a lot of bootlegs and B-sides and Japanese versions. (Up until his most recent album Modern Guilt, he always had bonus tracks on the Japanese versions. All I got this time was a link to a stupid 携帯待受画面 image. I was seriously disappointed.) His early stuff is rough and creative and all over the place genre-wise. There are some real gems like “Hollow Log.”

My Seishin 18 Kippu. I went to Minakami Onsen on March 8th and then Atami Onsen and the Numazu Taproom on March 15th.

00:33 My buddy Kai calls these magazines “onsen spank mags.” Ha. Always thought that was hilarious.

00:40 This is exactly how I found this onsen. I was just flipping through the travel brochure (which mainly lists the cost to stay overnight) and saw one that looked great – 法師温泉長寿館. I did some research and found that they allow higaeri bathers. Fortunately it wasn’t far from Minakami Onsen, so I was somewhat familiar with the area.

00:44 Hyperdia is great, and they recently did a site renovation. Now the form auto-predicts the station as you type, and you can select your departure/destination from a list of stations that pops up. Makes it really easy to use.

The one problem I’ve discovered with using Hyperdia over long distances is that they always ride lines to the end. When you’re going across the county on a Seishun 18 Kippu, sometimes it’s more strategic to get off a station or two early to catch the start of a new line (or new section along a line), which gives you a better chance of getting a seat.

00:51 This is my room from a different angle. You can see my bookshelf and my door.

Not showering before an onsen trip makes that first bath so sweet.

01:06 Love this shot of the girl waving to someone on the train.

01:12 Another of my favorite shots – three guys chilling out and two guys sleeping on the ends.

01:16 My roommate Teppei thought me napping on the train was hilarious. I should have used my messenger bag as a pillow. Would have been much more natural.

01:23 When I went out to Minakami, I bought some food at a konibini somewhere along the way and then seriously regretted it after finding this bakery in Takasaki. This time I was prepared and hadn’t had anything for breakfast, so I gorged myself on tasty パン.

01:27 I love how the trains get older the farther you go into the inaka. One of my favorite lines is the one along the Japan Sea that runs from Naoetsu in Niigata Prefecture to Toyama. The train looks like it’s been carved in one piece out of the mountains that it runs through.

01:34 I was a little stressed on this trip up until this point. I was preoccupied with making every train and getting all the footage I needed, but once I filmed this bus, I was finally able to relax. Most of the hard work was done, and I knew I’d probably catch the second bus. There was only one set of buses in the morning and one in the afternoon, so if I’d missed either of them, I would have been facing a steep taxi bill.

01:41 This is the second bus, an even smaller local bus that runs out to the onsen – as mentioned before, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. I like the driver’s little wave.

01:50 Here’s the building. It’s an amazing place out in the mountains. I was hoping there might be some magical extra bus back, but the driver of the neon green bus told me that there weren’t any and that taxi would cost quite a bit. It was only 7km back, and I figured I could handle that much.

01:52 Foreigners, including myself, like to collect these. All the Japanese people I’ve ever mentioned that to think it’s really strange, and one even said she uses them to pick up dog poop (?!).

01:55 Really wish I could’ve filmed inside the bath. I think I even went as far as emailing the place to ask for permission, but they never replied. The bath is one of the few mixed onsen I’ve ever been to. It feels straight out of the Meiji Period or maybe even earlier – just one big pool that has a pattern of wooden bars running across. People lean their heads on these or rest their feet on them. There aren’t even any shower heads, so you have to sit by the side of the water and shovel it on yourself with a bath bucket.

01:57 The walk wasn’t bad at all. The sun came out, so it wasn’t too cold, and I had an hour of the BS Report to listen to.

02:02 I guess I would’ve been disappointed if I hadn’t seen monkeys in a place called 猿ケ京 (a literal translation of this could be “Monkey Capital”). I was a little uneasy when I first saw them down the road because I was in the middle of nowhere, not exactly a home court advantage for humans when it comes to monkey fighting, but they walked off to the side, so I readied my camera to catch them on film. As soon as I got to where they were and peaked over the side rail, they scampered off.

02:08 I got to this place right on time. About ten minutes after I finished filming, some other people showed up. The indoor shot is a little steamy, but the rotemburo part is great. Just be glad I didn’t include any “bonus footage” as part of this post.

02:15 There was a liquor store right across from the bus stop, and they had a couple of local beer selections including Echigo Stout. Nice.

A great little trip, and I highly recommend it. There are plenty of onsen that aren’t quite as far away as Houshi. Atami is only an hour and a half or so from Tokyo. Plenty of others closer than that. Maybe this year I’ll focus on slightly less epic trips.

Original post here.

4 thoughts on “How to Higaeri Onsen – Director’s Commentary

  1. Regarding the extra tracks on Japanese albums. I don’t know if you’re aware of this but it used to be very common – it might still be. The reason for this was (at least my understanding is) that it was often cheaper for Japanese consumers to import albums from America or the UK than pay the extortionate costs for the ‘local’ versions. In order to encourage people to purchase the Japan versions they put a couple of extra tracks on them. Of course, this then made them desirable to collectors back in the West…

    I’ve still not onsen-ed. Next trip~

  2. Yeah, I was aware of that, and it definitely worked! It even got me to buy the Japanese version this time (with the hope that there was something more awesome than just a photo). I wonder if digital distribution of music has had any effect on this. I’ve noticed “album” tracks that you can only get on iTunes when you buy a whole album. Kind of a similar concept.

  3. Seishun 18 is available at most larger JR Stations. I believe it costs 11,000 yen these days. It’s good for 5 days of travel during the period of validity.

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