Posts Tagged 'Onsen'

Snowy Night at the Oldest Ryokan in Japan

Hello! As soon as vacation started I went off on a trip across the Kanto region in Japan, so I’m going to get straight it and start a mini travel series with the night we spent at Sekizenkan, the oldest hot spring inn in Japan.


If you’ve watched Spirited Away then this bridge probably looks a little familiar to you. Sekizenkan’s supposedly one of the inspirations behind the film’s onsen setting, and whether it’s true or not the place looks pretty legit.


It’s 326 years old, which is actually really amazing once you add up the centuries. We also realised that’s probably why the ryokan is kind of worn out and creaky, but that was all part of its charm.


Another charm was definitely its cost. One night cost us ¥6,000 (US$53), which is already half the price of most ryokans. You could call it a no-frills deal—it doesn’t pamper you quite as much as other places and you have to set up your own futon, but all that were really minor comforts to sacrifice for such a great price.


I mean, we still got the usual gift of manju!


Another reason for the low price was because the meals are provided at an economy size instead of the usual kaiseki 1o-course shebang. But when we got this whole tray of food for dinner, there really wasn’t anything economy about it. Everything was beautifully laid out and still looked expensive, so I didn’t think we were missing out on anything.


Our dinner was served in the dining hall where our table was waiting for us. So homely.

Sekizenkan Breakfast

Breakfast was another grand affair! (Okay seriously, this is a steal at the price we paid) There was porridge in the morning so that was a nice change from the endless bowls of rice. They even let you get refills if you wanted them, which is always a plus point anywhere.


It wasn’t just the food, but the whole landscape of the place was worth every yen. It may be an old place, but they’ve kept it gorgeous. Every window we looked out of had a good view even it was a clump of trees in the dark.


Shady, but magical. Also I’m glad we came here when there was snow everywhere!


Even the interior was pretty, with old-fashioned corridors and furnishings all over the place. This one elevator in the ryokan opened up to a long dim hallway that looked very much like a creepy tunnel, so that was cool.

Sekizenkan Onsen

And of course the baths were amazing. They had an outdoor onsen! (I feel like all good ryokans need to have one anyway) It was snowing when we entered the hot spring, so needless to say that was the best bath I’ve ever had.


It’s not the fanciest or the most luxurious, but Sekizenkan has an old charm of its own that you can’t get anywhere else. And of course it’s nice to be able to say you’ve stayed at the night at the real life Spirited Away hot springneko


Ryokan Stay in Yunishigawa Onsen

I went for an onsen trip! We stayed at a ryokan in the mountains and it probably doesn’t get any more rustic than that.

Onsen Ryokan

We went to Yunishigawa Onsen in the Nikko area, somewhere in the Tochigi prefecture (you’ll know you’re there when you start seeing lots of strawberry-flavoured souvenirs). It took us around three hours by train and bus to get there from Tokyotrain

Onsen Ryokan

What’s a long journey without ekiben? I saved on breakfast just so I could eat my train bento.

Onsen Ryokan

Eventually the bus dropped us somewhere in the mountain valley. We found our ryokan, Hana to Hana (彩り湯かしき花と華), a traditional Japanese inn a little like something out of a Ghibli movie. I’m pretty sure I’ve used that reference before; every time something’s old and Japanese I just say it looks like Ghibli.

Onsen Ryokan

I’ve never seen greater hospitality anywhere other than ryokan. They greet you at the entrance, have a special plaque with your family’s name on it, show you to your room and basically make you feel so welcome it feels like home. There’re hospitable in so many subtle ways too, like how there’ll be hot tea and a bowl of manjū (little Japanese confectionery) waiting on the table for you.

Onsen Ryokan

Ryokan rooms are the bestgirl loveThey’re spacious and clean and laid out with tatami flooring, perfect for you to just lie around on and relax. While you’re at dinner the staff come and set up the sleeping futon for you, so you can come back to a nice and cosy room with fluffy mattresses.

Onsen Ryokan

And of course you can’t miss the onsen. My friends and I went two to three times because it just felt so good to soak in a hot spring after spending a day out in the cold winter. My favourite was the big outdoor bath (rotenburo)kira

Onsen Ryokan

Dinner was a local traditional Japanese-style barbecue called okaribayaki, where everyone sat around a hearth and grilled our own meat and vegetables. It was a huge dinner course with lots of different dishes, so we were eating for a really long time.

Onsen Ryokan

The tray was arranged so nicely, and everything tasted good too! My favourite part about these kind of Japanese meals is getting to try so many different things. It’s like a sampling menu that still fills you up.

The hearth we sat around had this grill surrounded by food on skewers, kind of like our own little campfire. There were things like mochi and konnyaku and chicken which somehow tasted even better on a stick.

Onsen Ryokan

(and this fish)

Onsen Ryokan

We relaxed a lot during this triphappyI guess that’s the point of going on a trip to ryokan—enjoying simple nature and disconnecting from busy life in the city (literally, sometimes, when there wasn’t Wi-fi). Since there were several types of onsen we went as and when we wished—that night a few of us stayed up talking all night (eventually mumbling and trying hard to stay awake) until it was almost dawn. Then we went to the outdoor onsen again for a bath at sunrisekira

Onsen Ryokan

Breakfast was another grand event! They served us a course meal again with hot mochi soup and some cold tasty dishes in more pretty trays. After that we went back to the room to loll around the comfy room somewheresmileI ended up falling asleep for a bit again because I didn’t sleep the entire night.

Onsen Ryokan

Yunishigawa Onsen’s a sleepy area in the mountain valley with the bare minimum of buildings and roads, but there was gorgeous scenery instead. Like that part of the lake that was frozengirl love

Onsen Ryokan

I’m happy I got to experience an onsen getaway with friends for the first timelove girlIt was a lot of fun going as a group; being in a peaceful place makes everything and everyone feel closer, in a good way. It was just one night but I miss it already.

So I made a video in commemoration—it’s on YouTube here!

☆ Hokkaido: Chitose → Jozankei


I’m back to write about my trip. This time it’ll be all about Hokkaido! It was different from previous trips in that I didn’t stay in one place the whole time; my family moved from one city to another everyday. It took a lot of energy, but we got to explore more of Hokkaido.


Travelling from Tokyo to Hokkaido was the only bad thing about this whole trip. It was quite plainly the worst plane ride I’d ever experiencedcryTurbulence is one thing—when the plane has sudden drops several times during a journey, it’s petrifying. And worse when half the passengers go ‘ahhh!?’ at the same time. I sat like a stone for the entire hour and a half (and to think I’d even been the mood for cake when I at the start).

My brother did help me feel less uneasy though; he told me to look out the window and watch the view outside. Domestic flights don’t fly at such a high altitude so it felt reassuring to be able to see city lightshmm

Hokkaido Lights

But anyway…thank God we landed in Hokkaido and could start enjoying our trip on safe ground after that. The six days started from there!


We’d arrived in New Chitose Airport, but since all the hotels were full we stayed in the neighbouring city Tomakomai! It’s not exactly a tourist spot so it was a fairly quiet place, but still nice. I walked around for a bit and talked to a few locals while looking for places to eat at! Enjoying the peace of more residential areas is good too, plus getting to interact with people is funwave

Slice of Apple Cake

Omelette rice for a late dinnerhappyWe slept quickly that night haha.

The next day we headed to Jozankei! Since Tomakomai is a fair distance away we got up early to catch the train to Sapporo, and then a bus to the town.

Mame Daifuku

Mame daifuku (mochi with azuki beans) for breakfastheartI love their chewy texture, especially with the beans. Plus every conbini sells them for cheap, so they’re a really thrifty and affordable snack.


We also had a small cake on the train since it was a long journey.


We arrived in Jozankei after lunchtime! Jozankei is an onsen resort town located in the south of Sapporo. It’s famous for its hot springs, so a lot of locals like to come for a short getaway at one of the many ryokan hotels. There’s a lot of nature because it’s basically a town in the mountains. Which makes it a great place to see the trees changing to fall colours!


Beautiful trees everywheretrees

The hotel I stayed at was Shika no Yu, a ryokan hotel with a pleasantly traditional interior. It had hot springs and a neat shop that sold a lot of snacks and souvenirs unique to Jozankei. My favourite part was definitely the Japanese style room my family stayed in!

Shika no Yu

Our room was all soft and thick after the futons were set upsmile

Dinner that evening was buffet-style at this really big banquet hall. I remember being a little awestruck because of all the tables and how all of them had already been assigned to each family with a special appetisershockThe interesting thing was that there seemed to be different ‘social classes’—the section my table was in had fish, and when I walked around later I saw other tables that had crab, and another section with lobster haha.


The buffet setup was amazinglove


Even the tables have little trees on them.


My main tray looked like this.


And shiratami azuki for desserthehe


It was a filling dinner! It was even better because of how laid-back and charming the whole atmosphere was—a lot of people were in their yukata just before or after going to the baths. My family and I went after dinnerokay

No pictures for that one, needless to say.

But I had a great time soaking in the onsenheheThe minerals in the spring water must be really good because I think my skin became smoother after that lol.

That was a relaxing end to the day! The futons were so fluffy and inviting that we all fell asleep pretty fast.

Staying in a ryokan was one of the more special experiences I had. It was my first time being in a proper Japanese-style room (hotel, rather) so I was amazed by everything I saw because it was all so traditional and well, Japanese. It’d be nice if I could go back again one day! I’ll write more about the second day in the next post ♪



▷ . Cheryl

A university student in Tokyo who takes pictures and puts them on the Internet

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