A Giant Ryokan in Shirahone Onsen

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Jan 29, 2010

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Flag of Japan  , Chubu,
Thursday, January 14, 2010

From Takayama, we headed further up into the mountains to a place called Shirahone Onsen. We had to get a few buses to get there and the connections were dodgy. For example, the first bus out of Takayama (to Matsumoto), which actually had a connection at the other end was at 2pm! This kinda sucked as it mean we'd have to spend most of the day at Takayama and not relaxing in an Onsen. Ash googled one of the places where we had to change buses and there was nothing about it on google - it was quite literally just a bus stop, in the mountains... in the middle of nowhere! I was worried that the bus wouldn't come and we'd get stuck there... if it did happen I wouldn't know what to do because it was snowing, and probably -5, and there wasn't a town anywhere in walking distance! Thankfully it turned out ok :)

We were also a bit worried about the bus trip UP the mountain, and the lonely planet said quote '[some people will find it a reason] to take their happy pills'. But Ash and I found it o.k [apart from one mishap were the bus stopped, couldn't get enough traction on the snow and ice covered mountain road to start again, reversed 20 metres, tried again and still couldn't - then someone finally got out and put some chains on the bus. As if you wouldn't have them on already?!], probably because a previous car trip drive across tiger leaping gorge was scarier.

We stayed at what we thought was a small traditional ryokan, but was actually a behemoth with its own restaurant with private dining rooms.

Our room was ginormous, being more apartment than room with several different rooms, and even a hallway with its own rock garden!

The main point of staying in the Ryokan, is to enjoy its onsens - as the name of the place suggests. There were 3 onsens each for the males and females and one large outdoor mixed onsen. The water in the onsens were milky white, and the outdoor onsens were surrounded by snow. We even sat in the onsen while it was snowing! This is us.

The Ryokan also served a Kaiseki meal, with about 6 courses... we were both SO FULL that we hardly ate anything the next day. We had our own private dining room and the serving person would come in and serve each course. She even fixed up our shoes and lined them up nicely on the way out. So Japanese!

It was a lovely holiday from the holiday - I can see why Japanese people think of Onsen holidays as the ultimate in relaxation!
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