After a very early Christmas Party and getting my snow tires changed, I set out from Sanjo on Saturday morning for Fukushima Prefecture. My goal was Numajiri Onsen, a natural hot spring in the mountains. I have been wanting to go ever since I found out about it here. The reason is that unlike most onsen in Japan, you can visit and bathe in the natural, unrefined source of the spring. Usually, when you go to an onsen, you pay an entrance fee into a specific bath that has water piped in from the nearby spring. While this is still a great experience, the source itself is usually inaccessible. So I was pretty jazzed about the chance to visit this place.
I took route 459 from Gosen in Niigata across Honshu to Fukushima, which sits on the eastern half of the island. Rather than spending money on the expressway, I opted for this route which parallels the expressway, but which is craaaaazy narrow and windy. I took me 4 1/2 hours to get from Sanjo in Niigata to Numajiri in Fukushima, arriving at 2 pm where I was to start out for the hike.