Overnight in Kinosakionsen

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The two and a half hour train ride from Kyoto was nothing short of spectacular. The train snaked through ravines with sheer drops to meandering rivers, only occasionally angry and foaming below; mountains thick with pine forests and splashed white and pink with cherry blossom; rustic towns and villages dotted with thin two story housing, cemeteries, glass houses and manicured gardens; terraced rice paddies, some newly furrowed, some flooded; urban areas, resplendent with factories, schools, apartment blocks and car parks.

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Kinosakionsen itself is a quaint village, reminiscent of traditional Japan. The hotel was easy to find, just a two minute walk from the train station. I arrived before I was allowed to check-in (the Japanese are very strict about this) so I wandered through the village, across footbridges, and along decidedly pedestrian unfriendly streets (I got tooted at because I wasn’t walking far enough over, apparently), which I promptly forgave it for because it is so pretty. I killed some time by buying a few souvenirs, and having a saki and apple ice cream (still haven’t been able to find wasabi flavored yet).

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When I was finally able to check-in at my ryokan*, I was ushered quickly to my room where I was given green tea and a sweet biscuit while I waited for my yukata fitting. Apparently my girls are too “sexy” for the one that was supplied, and it had to be upsized! I was shown how to tie it (I now consider myself quite skilled in this area). I was supposed to be fitted with wooden clogs, but that didn’t happen (and I didn’t mind).

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Of course, the tradition is that after dinner, you stroll between the public baths (there are seven in Kinosakionsen) wearing your yukata and clogs. (I was quite happy to indulge in private bathing at my ryokan, hence my being not so concerned about absent clogs.)

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At 6pm on the dot, I was served dinner by a maid and it was delicious; a selection of sashimi, tempura, beef shabu-shabu (the owner made a special visit to explain how to eat it), egg soup, soy-steamed veggies, clear soup, crab, prawns, fish and rice were served, followed by strawberries and golden kiwi fruit. The only thing I couldn’t bring myself to eat was the baby squid or octopus (I wasn’t sure which they were). Call me old fashioned, but I’d rather chow down on fried grasshopper (which I did at the Daikichi ryokan in Tsumago).

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After dinner, I indulged in a hot spring bath, which is the main reason one comes to Kinosakionsen. I couldn’t quite bring myself to go public, so lucky for me, the Mikuniya has a private bath right near my room. There is a bit of a process to taking a hot spring bath in Japan, namely you never, ever, EVER wash yourself in the bath – you do it before you get in. In this particular ryokan, there is a shower next to the bath, complete with supplies of soap etc. Once you are clean, then you can get in the bath.

And what a bath it is. Big and deep and hot. One of the biggest and deepest baths I’ve ever had. The heat seeps right into your skin, through your tissue, right down to the marrow of your bones. And I floated. At least my arms and boobs did. In fact, my boobs have not been perkier since I was a teenager! I am not immune to the pleasures of a bath, but I found this one to be especially relaxing and soothing.

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By the time I’d gotten back to my room, my maid had made up my futon. Unfortunately, this also included a somewhat hard and uncomfortable buckwheat pillow. If you’ve never slept on one, those things are cruel and unusual punishment, especially if you are a stomach sleeper, as I am.

(Fact: at both ryokans I drank a lot of green tea. At both ryokans I did not sleep well. I’m wondering how much caffeine is in green tea…?!)

I wish I had more time in this quaint little town. As with most places, one night is never enough.

* I had two stays at ryokans while here in Japan, and while I’m glad I had the experience, it was something I endured rather than enjoyed. The ryokans themselves were quite noisy, and I found I waited around a lot for things like meals to be served etc. This found me at a perpetual loose end; I didn’t quite know what to do with myself at times. And while I didn’t mind the futon on floor and the communal bathroom and toilet, I felt like I was camping. And, as I mentioned above, I didn’t sleep well at either ryokans.

2 Comments

  • tommahawk68 April 28, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    Your blogs put me in Japan as well. Great stuff.

    Reply
    • dileeshus April 28, 2014 at 9:13 pm

      Glad you’ve enjoyed it, Tom!

      Reply

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