for a truly amazing experience, head to the tsurunoyu onsen (hot springs) in akita, japan, around january or february, to ensure that there is a lot of snow. request that you stay in the old part of the guest house – a detached 300 year old uninsulated wooden structure (structure to the left in top picture). you will be transported back in time. as with most ryokan (traditional japanese inn), 2 meals are served in your room, breakfast and dinner. in the middle of the room in this part of the guesthouse, a depression holds a fire that is used to heat your dinner (picture above of room interior), and doubles as the only source to heat the room just long enough from dinner time till very early morning. on arrival, get out of your clothing, don the yukata, provided by the ryokan, have some green tea, rest a bit, then have some cold sake, and venture out down the snow covered path to the outdoor hot springs – and if your room is one of the first rooms towards the entry of the guesthouse, the walk in the snow to the springs will feel rather long and invigorating. while there are other attractions and activities nearby, once you settle in your room and indulge in the onsen dippings, all else will seem irrelevant. enjoy the experience – i left rejuvenated.