Maruhon ryokan (まるほん旅館) in Shimofuro

Located almost at the top of the Shimokita Peninsula (下北半島) sticking up from Aomori Prefecture towards Hokkaido, Maruhon ryokan (まるほん旅館) in Shimofuro (下風呂) is a bit out of the way for some tourists, but certainly worth the visit which we did as part of our road trip through Aomori.

Reservations are only taken via their website and not via or Rakuten Travels or similar sites, no English language option is available on the site but with the on-the-fly translations these days, this isn’t really necessary. Like so many Japanese locations catering mainly to the Japanese, the ryokan is cash-only.

When you check their website, you find that there are different options for the food and we went for the anglerfish (アンコウ目) plan; this was totally worth the extra expense. When you have to drive a few hours to get to a special location, there is no point in skimping out, right? Depending on the season there are different plans available.

Right next to the ryokan is plenty of free parking. Shimofuro is a tiny village with a harbour with lots of fishing boats for nice photographs and a tiny park on the side of the harbour with some nice views. Overlooking the village is a Shinto shrine on the hill.
The water in the onsen is very milky and hot. If you just read my review and looked at the photos of an old building, nothing gorgeous, you might not be convinced that this ryokan is worth a few hours drive, let me then tell you that this is one of the secret onsen of Japan normally just shared between insiders. I won’t say more.

Opposite the ryokan is a public bath and up the road is another one, both of them are mostly frequented by the locals every day, you buy a token at the machine outside and hand the token to the person sitting at the entrance inside. We used both of them and it was a lot of fun to mingle around the people of the village. One thing you have to know, the water in those baths is hot, scaldingly hot! There are two baths, one is a little colder and the other is almost boiling. It took a long time before I got used to the hot water enough to enjoy the hottest of them. I was very proud of myself and told one of the local fishermen that the water was so hot yet felt so good, and he told me with a straight face that it was just tepid. After a night out at sea, I bet I would be frozen to the core too. 🙂

Yachi Onsen (谷地温泉) in Hōryō, Aomori Province

Yet another picturesque onsen that we visited during our road trip around the different onsen of Northern Tōhoku was Yachi Onsen (谷地温泉) in Hōryō, Towada-shi, Aomori-ken.

At Yachi Onsen, you’re truly in the middle of nowhere on top of a mountain with Mt. Takada-Odake looming on the side: No TV, no mobile reception or Internet, it is bliss!

When you turn the corner and get your first glimpse of the building, it looks like a collection of sheds and you might feel a bit of a worry. But after checking in and finding your room, you can relax as the room was new, spacious and clean. The onsen is interesting: a series of similar baths in a row with different temperatures, and at the end you can climb down to enter a space where the water drips over you. Interesting! As the water was rather “strong” it burned my skin a bit and during my subsequent soaks, I washed myself with the shower after bathing; there were signs on the wall suggesting to do exactly this as clearly I was not the first person with a bit of a sensitive skin.

Dinner was iwana fish (岩魚) as sashimi, tempura and grilled with salt among the other usual ryokan delicacies. Breakfast was more of the same type of fish. I could eat this fish everyday of my life!

We visited in March and there were still meters of snow outside. Apart from the onsen, one of the attractions was that a lot of Japanese marten, ten (貂), would come out at night and roam the area around the buildings just waiting for an alert photographer to capture them in a great pose. Several of the visitors had come with long lenses and flash units to attempt exactly this. In the morning we could see the tracks in the fresh snow and knew that loads of ten had come out to play that night.
Otherwise, it looked like most people were visiting for hiking and skiing the Mt. Takada-Odake area while enjoying a relaxing bath after the day’s activities and the great food; next time I’ll stay longer to be able to enjoy the outdoor sports myself.
Notable thing: signs everywhere to keep doors closed or snake would sneak in. Good thing we visited in Spring in the cold. 🙂

Pentax 67 Lens to Pentax K (PK) Mount adapter

Last month I picked up a K&F Concept adapter for Pentax 6×7 lenses to the Pentax K mount and tested it on my Pentax ME Super and on my Pentax MZ-S cameras. It is a quality adapter and, most importantly, on all my Pentax K mount cameras, DSLRs and SLRs alike, the fit is perfect and the focus to infinity is as promised.

The lens I have been looking forward to using on my Pentax SLRs the most is the S-M-C Takumar 6X7 105mm f/2.4. This is a great lens that recently has been declared the holy grail of lenses and the prices are getting out of hand. Still, it is a great lens, especially at f/2.4 aperture where the bokeh really gets unique.
I was wondering if that bokeh would also translate to the Pentax K mount cameras as well as it does on the Pentax 6×7 and the Pentax 645 cameras and wasn’t disappointed.

I carried the camera around for three hikes, the usually very light and small Pentax SLRs do turn a bit into a beast with a Pentax 6×7 lens attached and it might draw a bit of attention of people wondering what that big bulk of a lens is about on such a tiny camera.
The focussing of Pentax 6×7 lenses is of course fully manual but when you use the adapter, the aperture needs to be operated manually as well. Luckily this is very easy with the Pentax 6×7 lenses that always have a big switch on the side that allows you to stop down the lens to the desired aperture and get the exposure reading if you’re using a TTL camera.