After nearly a week in Noboribetsu, it’s time to get in the car and drive to Niseko, deep in the mountains, for a few days of long walks and contemplation. Contemplation is a lot like thinking only it sounds fancy.
The week in Noboribetsu was wonderfully pleasant in all ways imaginable. Good food, lots of naps, short walks, some reading, some writing, and five baths a day.
The outdoor bath at Takinoya is flat out wonderful: Milky blue, and after immersion, followed by another dip inside, the body feels renewed. Nothing quite like it.
The village consists of a short street lined with tchotchkes shops selling demonic objects, honey, and printed t-shirts with Noboribetsu written on them. But: It also has a first-rate ramen shop run by Ishikawa-san; a first-rate sake shop selling great bottles of stuff that costs three times as much in the U.S.; and, Fukien, a lovely soba joint.
The dinners at Takinoya have been deeply enjoyable: Course after small course of raw fish, boiled fish, grilled fish, steamed fish, all accompanied by fresh or pickled or steamed vegetables, and here and there we find morsels of beef. This ryokan is among the best I’ve ever visited.