Momiji-gari means “making an excursion to see the leaves changing.”

Noboribetsu is a famous hot-spring town in Hokkaido where the streams run milky and warm. The Ainu word “Nuplpetsu” means the “white and muddy river.”

Back at the ryokan, we watched the end-of-the-season leaves shiver off the trees while we soaked (in a Goldilocksian manner) in the three outdoor baths (one made of cypress, one of pottery, and one of stone). One regret I have is the great highlight of many of our trips in Japan, our literal immersion in Japanese culture—the onsen baths—cannot be photographed for obvious (nay, naked and steamy) reasons. We soaked and soaked, ate and ate, drank and drank.

Happiness burbles up like the sulfurous, yet healing waters, and lets you skip among the fallen leaves. Even the oni are benevolent.