After all, turning sixty is a once-in-a-lifetime event that the Japanese call kanreki. Reaching sixty means that a person has gone through five cycles of the Chinese Zodiac. Some view kanreki as a rebirth. That is a fitting idea for my life. For me, a hot spring bath is a healing womb that refreshes, revitalizes, and restores me to a younger and more positive being.
Others think of kanreki as a return to being an infant. Typical gifts for those celebrating kanreki include red clothes to symbolize the red skin of a baby. My wife gifted me with an opportunity to turn my skin red through immersion in mineral-infused hot water. Whether I am becoming a child again or becoming senile, a great bath is a moment to treasure.
Before, after, or between soaks, one can stroll trails that lead along the river's edge and some that encircle a nearby campground. I spotted fishers in mid-river. We gathered mountain vegetables (called sansai in Japanese) to take home. Some of the dishes included mushrooms and vegetables that the workers collect each day.
For me, though, the greatest pleasure was bathing, soaking, bathing, soaking, and repeating the process while switching between the indoor and the outdoor bath. Every time was different. As day shifted into night and morning woke us up, the sounds of the river changed, the lighting differed, and I was both older and reborn.
This glorious birthday celebration cost approximately three hundred dollars, which included two gourmet meals. This was a special price offered during the pandemic. I do not know what the price would be during normal years. I was more than satisfied by the perfect service, the mouth-watering dishes prepared with the best local ingredients, the size and quality of the rooms and furnishings, and the private atmosphere.
Another wonderful hot spring ryokan in Niigata that also offers river views, hiking, luxury, and gourmet meals prepared with mountain vegetables is Rankeisou.