Our last few days in Japan! Oh no! Where did that last month go? At least we spent them in style. One of the things we both wanted to do was stay in a traditional Ryokan that was next to an onsen. A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese Inn, normally made of wood and situated in natural surroundings. Rooms are simple but elegant. Beds are nowhere to be seen as you actually sleep on futons that they bring out at night. The bed room also serves as a dining room where you are generally served a feast. When you get there you are given your own Kimono which you wear at all times, even for breakfast! An Onsen is a hot spring and Japan is full of them.
We were having trouble finding a Ryokan that we could afford next to a mixed gender Onsen as most Onsens have separate areas for Men & Women. Thankfully after long searches online we found the perfect place. When we arrived at the Ryokan all the staff came out to greet us. It was like we were Lord & Lady of the manor! Ha ha. After entering our room we knew we had made the right choice. It was everything a Ryokan should be like. A simple but elegant room with views of nature from your window. In our case we had a river below and a mountain full of autumnal colours. Perfect. We did not want to hang about though so we quickly changed into our Kimonos and headed to the Onsens. This particular place had 3 onsens and all of them were right next to the river.
On entering the Onsen (naked) all I could think was ‘oh my god!’ The hot water was just what the Dr ordered as it was cold outside. To be sitting in this beautiful hot spring, heated by volcanoes below the Earth, listening to the rushing river and looking up at the stars was just magical and will live with me forever.
We spent a few hours in the lovely water before heading back for our meal inside our room. It was a feast! At least 16 courses served by our brilliant and fun waitress. After what seemed like hours of eating and drinking ( I have decided that I love Sake) we headed back out to the Onsens as they are open 24 hours. It was really quiet now and we had the place practically to ourselves. Even if it was busy there are plenty of nooks and crannies to have your own space in. The actual baths were designed to look as natural as possible and were made to look like rocks falling on each other around a pool. We had another couple of hours in the water before heading off to our lovely room to sleep with huge smiles on our faces.
The next day we had another full day at the onsen. Ah joy of joys. As Paul said, the experience is unforgettable and if you’re ever in Japan make sure you visit at least one.
The experience was slightly different as today we visited the onsen during daylight. As our onsen was mixed we could wrap a towel around us but Japanese men are used to being naked in these things and most of them made do without the towel. Let’s just say there were many moments when I didn’t know where to look!
Once I got over the unwanted views I relaxed and enjoyed the real scenery around me. There was one point when the gentle breeze blew slightly harder scattering hundreds of leaves off the trees and into the air, where they floated like snowflakes in the air. It was absolutely magical, one of those moments that I’m sure I’ll go back to time and time again.
We were so sad to leave this place but felt so fortunate we were able to spend a couple of days here, mainly thanks to Andy (Paul’s ex-boss) and Paul’s parents who contributed to our luxury fund. Thanks so much guys we’ve had a truly unforgettable experience thanks to you.
It was time to head back south to the Kansa region to catch our two day boat to China. We were truly sad to leave this wonderful country and promised ourselves that we would be back one day. Japan, we came with high expectations and left with even higher realisations.
Speak soon (very soon as we’re still in blitzing blog mode!)
Lots of love
Karen and Paul