Posts Tagged 'Ryokan'

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.

Sekizenkan

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.

Sekizenkan

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.

Sekizenkan

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.

Sekizenkan

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

Sekizenkan

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.

Sekizenkan

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.

Sekizenkan

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.

Sekizenkan

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

Sekizenkan

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.

Sekizenkan

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

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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!


▷ . Cheryl

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

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