Obon-yasumi has begun, and for our first day off, my friends and I went on a day trip to Yamanashi Prefecture in the blazing heat for some sunflower-gazing.
I just casually say “day trip,” but it was a really early day. “Other Stephanie” and I had to get up around 5am to make the train in time to meet up with Kaoru, who kindly rented a car and planned this trip for all of us. We rented the car near my friend’s station in Tokyo and drove 2 1/2 to 3 hours to get to the sunflower field, which is in Yamanashi Prefecture. There was a lot of traffic due to people going home for the Obon holiday, as well as it being the only main road through the area anyway.
The Akeno Sunflower Festival wasn’t just in one spot, but there are lots of different sunflower fields (perhaps 20 or so?) that you can drive around to. (I think you might be able to walk, too, but it’s so hot in August.) There were lots of refreshments on sale, including chicken, sausages, and bacon, shaved ice, soft-serve in different flavors, and various drinks. I had “sunflower” flavored soft-serve! It tasted like cantaloupe. There was a small sunflower maze, too.
Sunflowers are really fun flowers to take pictures with, but I think the mountains behind them made them really spectacular. It was so majestic. There was a Heidi theme park behind us, from the Heidi TV show, so it’s an area that might be thought to emulate Switzerland. (There were Swiss flags along the street, and also some goats.)
~ And, one more thing! Mountain baths! ~
On the way back, we stopped at Hottarakashi Onsen (ほったらかし温泉), a hot spring in Yamanashi City. It’s way up at the top of a mountain, and most of the baths are outside. There’s a map on their website. Since it’s a Japanese-style hot springs and no one is wearing anything inside, I couldn’t take a picture of the view, but you can see the pics they have on their website here. It opens an hour before sunrise and closes around 10pm, so if you come early enough or stay late enough, you can see the basin/valley all lit up with lights from the city below.
You can choose to take a bath on one of two sides, “this way” (こっち) and “that way” (あっち), and there’s a large 6-sided dice with the options written on it to help you decide if you’re having trouble. We rolled the dice and got “this way,” but I actually wanted to go “that way,” so we switched (^^)
The baths are mainly outdoors and look over the side of the mountain. It had a really friendly atmosphere, and lots of families were there. There was also a souvenir shop with different local goods, and I got some yuzu mochi (citrus-flavored rice cakes), pictured above, which I’d never seen before. They were good! They came in a resealable bag, so you know they’re quality (haha).
It was a great way to end a long day out in the sun looking at sunflowers. I like that about Japan…in the States, we would probably have gone on a hike, and then come home sweaty and gross in the car, but after walking around and getting all dirty outdoors here, we got to clean off and then sit in a hot spring on a mountain :)
We were up so early and so wiped out from the weather and the day, that me and “Other Steph” fell asleep in the car on the way back. (I don’t even usually fall asleep in cars.) The first leg of the trip was non-stop Ulfuls, although I slept through some of it, but later we took turns choosing which music to listen to, and found some interesting compromises (because I refused to listen to Mr. Children and my friend refused to put up with Nishino Kana hahaha). It formed a rather interesting playlist that I might share later.
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AAA, “NEW” cover by Yamashita Ayumu — it came out on the same day we went to the sunflower field!