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Cold, Wet, and Slippery in Kinosaki
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Chilly Kinosaki onsen district, Toyo'oka City, Hyogo, Japan -- Toyooka, Hyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 280 — map & image datanearby photos
Chilly
Kinosaki onsen district, Toyo'oka City, Hyogo, Japan

After spending most of last week with a mild cold, I finally felt better toward the weekend, so we took off on an impromptu overnight trip to the onsen (hot springs) at Kinosaki, a three-and-a-half hour drive through the mountains north-west of Kyoto, to Toyo'oka City in the neighboring prefecture of Hyogo.

We haven't had snow yet in Kyoto, but hoped to see some on the way. I envisioned the scene we saw in 2007 in Hokkaido with clean dry streets surrounded by pretty snow, but just in case, I had new snow tires on the car, to avoid the problem I had last year driving in some light snow.

We started seeing snow about half way into the drive. The roads themselves weren't covered, but they looked really wet and shiny. That wouldn't be a problem except that the temperature was below freezing – about 25°F – and so I was never sure whether the road was really wet, or was wet-looking black ice.

The last hour of the drive was white-knuckle slow, but we arrived in one piece half an hour after sunset. I was seriously stressed from the drive, so while Fumie checked in to our minshuku (Japanese inn), she let me run out for some photographic stress release.

I knew that the dusk lighting would be great, and hot off my recent successes with handheld low-light photography (although in much warmer climes), I hoped for the best.

Stream Bisecting Kinosaki's Onsens -- Toyooka, Hyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/100 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Stream Bisecting Kinosaki's Onsens

The main onsen area had a small river with dozens of bridge crossings, so if you could ignore the pervasive utility lines and wires, there was always a nice view.

Kinosaki -- Toyooka, Hyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 50 mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 4500 — map & image datanearby photos

You had to be vigilant in taking care with your footing, though, because the ground was either extremely slippery or puddled-up wet. So if your concentration faltered, you'd end up with either wet/freezing toes, or a nasty fall.

The cause of both the slipperiness and the wetness was the same, and it wasn't snow:

, f/2.8, ISO 6400 — map & image data — nearby photos Mid-Street Ice-Rink Production -- Kinosaki -- Toyooka, Hyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/20 sec freestanding handheld, f/2.8, ISO 6400map & image datanearby photos
Mid-Street Ice-Rink Production

Many streets and walkways in the area had these little fountains of liquid ice-to-be spraying all over. This is, of course, the answer to my What am I? quiz from the other day. They apparently have sensors that turn them on automatically when it snows.

Frostbitten Toes?   Broken Tailbone? Decisions, Decisions -- Kinosaki -- Toyooka, Hyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 45 mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 5600 — map & image datanearby photos
Frostbitten Toes?   Broken Tailbone?
Decisions, Decisions

It seems like a pretty-freaking stupid idea to me, but they've had them for 10+ years, so apparently it somehow balances out on the plus side.

Meanwhile, in the deepening twilight, everything got bluer and bluer, except where there was incandescent lighting, which became oranger and oranger. The outside really did become more blue as dusk settled in, but the incandescent lighting merely appeared to be getting more orange because in the context of the deep blue outside, our eyes/brain stopped trying to reconcile the two as the same, and so stopped trying to perceive them both as “white”.

Thus, we could now see the orange and blue for what they were, and it made for a pretty scene...

Pretty Pretty darn cold, too! -- Kinosaki -- Toyooka, Hyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 4000 — map & image datanearby photos
Pretty
Pretty darn cold, too!

I ventured around a bit, but it was cold and (did I mention this?) really slippery, so I didn't go too far. I did see another guys taking pictures, with a tripod but without gloves...

Photo Op -- Kinosaki -- Toyooka, Hyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 44 mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Photo Op

The next morning it was FREEZING (well, colder than that, actually). Having grown up in Ohio where 25°F would be considered downright balmy in the middle of winter, I feel like a wimp thinking that it was so cold, but it's been 20 years since I lived in that kind of cold, so now I am a wimp.

Anthony is not a wimp and wanted to play in the snow, so we bundled up and headed out for a while before breakfast.

Already, people were in the streets on their way to an onsen for a hot bath...

Geta on Ice -- Kinosaki -- Toyooka, Hyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 48 mm — 1/125 sec, f/6.3, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
Geta on Ice

The little road-sprinklers were still slightly flowing, so a thin band down the center of the street was standing water, while everything else was a flat sheet of pure ice.

Kinosaki -- Toyooka, Hyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 32 mm — 1/125 sec, f/6.3, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos

It was much better (and more deterministic) where there were no sprinklers...

Sure Footing -- Kinosaki -- Toyooka, Hyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 62 mm — 1/125 sec, f/10, ISO 720 — map & image datanearby photos
Sure Footing

One of the little bridges across the river was slanted completely down from one side, with water from a large pipe at the high end covering the entire bridge in a steady stream.

River Above and Below the Bridge -- Kinosaki -- Toyooka, Hyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
River Above and Below the Bridge

If the thing runs all the time, it's an excellent way to keep the whole bridge clear of snow and ice, but the water has to go somewhere, and so the road on either side was icy...

Slippery When Wet -- Kinosaki -- Toyooka, Hyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 50 mm — 1/125 sec, f/6.3, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Slippery When Wet

Anthony, of course, doesn't care about any of this... he just wants to play. We found an area where the road sprinklers were still spritzing a bit, and he enjoyed it.

Kinosaki -- Toyooka, Hyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/125 sec, f/6.3, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos

Comments so far....

Those snow sprinkler devices are very bizarre, going completely against what you’d think of doing to make roads/paths safer. Yet it seems to work to a degree; I’d rather have snow than black ice though!

Your shots seem to be highly on form today- some of the very best you’ve posted in my opinion. iso6400 still grabs me as being a little insane but it looks just fine, even viewed large. Stream Bisecting Kinosaki’s Onsens – both photos are beautiful, full of colour and detail, thanks for sharing again :)

— comment by David on January 28th, 2009 at 1:16am JST (5 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

I love your blog. I’m a photographer in Ohio and your photographs are beautiful. I can’t wait to see more. One thing though….what are the street sprinklers for? Do they squirt salt water so they don’t freeze?

That area looks beautiful in the winter time….can’t wait to see some spring photos. :)

They squirt regular water, I was told, but water that’s a bit warm because it’s from under ground. There was no steam or anything, so it’s couldn’t have been all that warm. I guess “warm” is relative to “frozen” in this case. —Jeffrey

— comment by Kathy on January 28th, 2009 at 3:09am JST (5 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Hello !
Does it means that I had a almost right answer about this “spinklers” ? I thought about this, here in switzerland we have this kind of things on highway. Only that we add salt, because not so much hot water here !

I heard about a little street which is heated with hot water from natural sources (Leukerbad, switzerland).

Thanks Fred

Yeah, your reply was pretty much it…. after two hints! :-) —Jeffrey

— comment by Fred Klee on January 28th, 2009 at 3:16am JST (5 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Hm… 18 years of Northern Wisconsin winters tell me that spraying roads with water in the winter is a BAD thing… but then if it’s naturally hot, and constant… that will be fine for the areas next to the sprinklers and no where else! An occasional dusting with sand works quite well. And then they could use the sprinklers in the Spring to wash it away ;)

— comment by JasonP on January 28th, 2009 at 3:55am JST (5 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Love some of these shots, Jeffrey. The dusk light really worked in your favor- aided, of course, by your lovely D700! The water sprayers do seem very odd to me. Isn’t ice the real danger? What is the official purpose, to melt the snow?

— comment by Jon on January 28th, 2009 at 5:34am JST (5 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Well, at last I understand the purpose of those wooden elevated shoes…to keep ones feet above the flowing water. So, so clever.And a very interesting post.

— comment by Grandma Friedl on January 28th, 2009 at 12:02pm JST (5 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

I’ve been up to Kinosaki a couple times. Did you see the little warm baths just for your feet? There are these little mini heated pools on the side of the main street for you to take your shoes off and enjoy a foot bath in. Those are great. Also, if you go at the right time of year, Kinosaki has great crab. In fact, this might even be the season for it.

— comment by Zachawry on January 28th, 2009 at 1:45pm JST (5 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Those nighttime photos really turned out nicely, Jeffrey!

— comment by Eric Scouten on January 28th, 2009 at 1:53pm JST (5 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Your photos are stunning – I stumbled upon your site while planning for a Japan trip I’m taking with my husband and 18 month old daughter in late December. I was planning a one night trip to the Kinosaki onsen on the way between Kyoto and Osaka but got nervous with all the snow/ice in these pictures – do you think this is a doable trip in late December with a toddler? Can little kids handle the heat of the baths, and are there mixed baths?

It looks incredibly beautiful…

Kinosaki is not at all between Kyoto and Osaka… it’s far north of Kyoto (Osaka is just to the south). I’d think that there be not that much snow in December, but that’s totally a guess (I’ve been there just the one time). I’d also think that it’d be difficult to find a mixed bath, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say they don’t exist. If you’re even contemplating a trip with an 18-month-old, then it’s probably fine. We took our 18-month-old into the bath at home, so the baths there are probably fine, though you may want to find one with a lukewarm bath as well. I don’t recall the two baths I visited there being particularly hot. —Jeffrey

— comment by Rachel on November 7th, 2009 at 11:49am JST (5 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Thanks for answering my questions. I know Kinosaki is not geographically between those two places – I was just looking for an onsen experience between a trip to Kyoto and Osaka, as I have one open night in my itinerary and wanted to do a ryokan/onsen experience somewhere… but didn’t know if it was worth it to go 2.5 hours out of the way to a place like this, but from your pictures it looks stunning. Great blog, I look forward to keeping up with the photos.

— comment by Rachel on November 7th, 2009 at 10:07pm JST (5 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Apologies for arriving late to your blog. I enjoy the way you take the mickey out of yourself & must say that your photo’s are really top shelf, so hats off to you on both counts.

I am currently researching Japan in Winter to try & sell my good lady on the idea of leaving a toasty warm Australian December/January for the complete opposite in Japan. I thought the Onsens, food, sites & sounds might tempt her but after reading your information & experiences, I may need to rethink things. Maybe she is right about travelling in nicer weather. Having said that, there’s something really appealing about snow & onsens. Right?

I’m about to grab a coffee & enjoy the rest of your blog. Happy days – Blinky from Down Under

There are many kinds of winterish experiences you can have in Japan, and outdoor onsen in the snow is a great one. I just don’t like to drive in the snow, so if you can avoid that stress by taking the train, all the better. —Jeffrey

— comment by Blinky Bill of Australia on November 5th, 2014 at 10:32am JST (1 month, 16 days ago) comment permalink
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