Friday, July 13, 2007

Kinosaki - Onsen Heaven

I had been wanting to go to Kinosaki for a long time. It’s a town along the Sea of Japan that’s famous for their onsens (hot springs). It's about 2 hours north of Himeji.

Usually Japanese people visit Kinosaki in the winter for a big crab meal and some serious onsening. Julian and I discovered long ago that it’s much better to visit places and do things that are out of season. It’s not crowded, it’s less expensive and it’s really fun!

Even though it was May, it was still cool at night and warm in the day, so we didn’t mind being in swelteringly hot steamy onsens. It’s one of the most hedonistic experiences one can have – seriously, it’s out of control relaxation and fun - nonstop soaking, eating and sleeping.

I picked a nice ryokan (Japanese style inn), Tsukimotoya Ryokan for us to stay. They provided us with traditional yukatas (cotton robes) and geta (wooden flip-flops). There are 7 onsens around town, so people walk around town in their yukatas and geta and visit various hot springs. And yes, in case you are wondering, we were naked under our robes – woot!

After we had checked into our ryokan, we decided to go to an onsen before dinner. We had paid for the stay including dinner and breakfast. We selected an onsen near our ryokan. Onsens are almost always divided into a separate men’s and women’s area. So it was nice to be with Naomi and Dan because none of us had to be alone.

I don’t know if I have ever written about going to onsens. Luckily we all love onsens. You must be naked, onsens are not for washing only soaking, you must clean yourself in the shower before going into an onsen to soak. Always rinse off all of your soap before entering the onsen! If you relax, you will soon get over the fact that everyone is naked including you and it's really ok because all you can do is relax and melt into the water.

Dinner was enormous. It was a big mix of delicious food, including crab, vegetable and shrimp tempura, nabe, sashimi, tofu, pickled vegetables, fish, shellfish, assorted appetizers, melon, meat pudding, rice, miso soup, beer and saki. As the meal progresed more food was brought out and served.

This was shellfish that wasn't very appetizing.

After dinner we passed out for a couple of hours and then dragged ourselves out of bed to endure more hot spring goodness.
This time we selected an onsen that had an outdoor bath. The setting was amazing because it was against this backdrop of a huge waterall, so we could soak and when we got hot we could lounge on the rocks next to the waterfall. There were fresh squeezed juice bars around town, so we could rehydrate after our bath.

We slept really well that night.

In the morning we had the difficult task of eating breakfast. We were all still full from the night before but we persevered.
Afterwards, we went to one more onsen. We then shopped and hopped on a train back to Himeji.

Here's the photo gallery.

1 comment:

Tinz said...

Kinosaki sounds like a great place. I might need to get the courage to go there so I can have a nice relaxing weekend too.