|A ski lift at Zao, waiting for snow.|
Zao Onsen, according to banners hanging around the town (and the town's web site), was first developed 1,900 years ago. I'm not sure how they could know this since writing didn't exist in Japan at that time, but nonetheless that's amazing. So, Zao is known for its ancient and amazing hot baths (the whole town smells like boiled eggs, there's steam everywhere, and the drains running throughout the town are bright yellow from the sulfur), its great skiing during the winter, and, of course, its kokeshis. In fact, for those of you who are new to the kokeshi world Zao even has its own family: Zao-Takayu 蔵王高湯系. When we went there on 13 July we found two kokeshi makers' shops that were open.
|Mr. Saito's shop.|
|Naoko examining wares.|
|Some of Mr. Saito's pieces.|
|These three-headed ones were innovative, but in the end we didn't get one.|
|A photo of Mr. Saito at work. It would've been nice to meet him.|
|We got the kokeshi on the bottom with the rape flower design. Quite nice.|
|Kokeshi no Yado.|
|A closer view. Those are kokeshis in the entrance.|
Double, double toil and trouble. Bubbling hot springs like this are all over Zao. This one's right across the street from the Kokeshi Hotel.
Before heading back to Tokyo it started to pour rain right as we were searching for an onsen. The locals told us to go to a small, public hot bath that was apparently Zao's original spring. So we did, paying on the honor system. It was, bar none, the hottest onsen I've ever been in, and I had to poor buckets of freezing water on myself just to be able to go in for a couple minutes. It was fantastic, but too hot.
|That little brown building is the public onsen. The water rises right up from beneath your feet.|
|Another of Zao's springs on the side of a parking lot.|