When you think about spending times in the mountains of Japan a few things typically come to mind most typically skiing/snowboarding. Fans of these winter sports can enjoy deep powder for days across the mountains of Honshu and Hokkaido but there are so many more things to enjoy while traveling through the higher elevations of this beautiful country. This past weekend I was able to do just that, a ski accident over the New Years Holiday forced me to sideline this past weekend from doing anything to physical. So what to do? Take the entire family up for a fun weekend in the mountains of Gunma near Niigata of course. Due to a very fortunate scenario we were able to rent a place with right near Tamagawa-dake and within walking distance of numerious hot springs. The train station we arrived at was so rural there was no one working there and we were the only people on the platform. Hot Springs or "onsens" in fact are a huge draw to the mountains for many in japan. And the more rural you get the better they seem to be. Not only because the onsens are often better but also because they much quieter and in some cases much more natural. This one was a beautiful one next to a river side that my son and I enjoyed as it snowed and the wind blew right over our heads. If you like just playing in the snow there is always that too, good news is the deep powder lets you build plenty of snow sculptures or even igloos. Or in our case an attempt at an igloo that failed well short. In Akita Prefecture you can actually stay inside a "kamakura" a Japanese type igloo. They are pretty interesting. I know this is a weather blog and I really like to concentrate on the snow and the geothermal goodness of the mountains but I would be remiss if I didn't mention the food in small town Japan. Often in rural areas small town restaurants make the food from scratch with typically fresh ingredients. A small restaurant at the base of a tiny family resort "ooana" was one of these I tried on Sunday. For starters when ordering coffee and you hear the beans being crunched in the kitchen moments later you know its a good restaurant. Did I mention that from time to time in rural Japan you can come across not only vending machines but also beer vending machines! What's to stop kids from strolling up to these? Nothing really... Lastly going for a stroll or a nice "Sampo" in the mountains of Japan is always a good time. For the average photographer small towns are full of fantastic photo opportunities. From river views to Shinto shrines one can waste away a day. The photo above is one of my more favorite spots, a little Shinto Shrine set aside a hill covered in show. We had to wade through a good 40cm of snow to get to it to see the trackless mountain shrine sitting tranquil in the winter setting. Every now and then in the most rural of areas you can spot some primates wondering around. Just be careful as they have a tendacy to go through your things in search of food if you leave it outside for any period of time. Below are some tracks of the little guys taken from our back yard. With all that said I think any one who enjoys traveling and especially who enjoys traveling in Japan I highly recommended getting out of the city and checking out some more rural areas away from the major tourist hubs.