Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Japanese Summer: Chapter Eight (i)

Better late than never. As much as I procastinates, I am still determined to finish the series because it means so much to me. On the 11th day in Japan, we headed to a little hot spring town called Kinosaki Onsen. The name is a dead giveaway as the word 'Onsen'
(温泉) itself means 'hot spring'. There you go, pick up a little Japanese as you read. =)

Going to the onsen was something both of us was very excited yet nervous about. This is of course for one obvious reason - getting naked in front of someone else! And when you know you're going to umm... be that 'expose', there's another list of concerns that pops up in mind. *cough cough* There was certainly a need to educate ourselves properly on the DOs-and DON'Ts at the hot springs. Thank God for Google!

I confess. We fell in love with McD Japan after our last late night snack two nights before. As if Ebi Burger aka Prawn Burger wasn't impressive enough... LO AND BEHOLD! Bacon Egg & Cheese Burger for breakfast!

Bacon wei! BACON!
And with your choice of Cafe Au Lait.


Not just your usual "Coffee or tea?" but an actual list of beverages to choose from. Choices that include "Cafe Au Lait". Awww.... I crave for Japanese McD right now! I miss. I want.

And so we headed off to the station after breakfast. And there we found Platform Zero. Hahaha... that's a first. I guess Japan just never fail to amuse.

That's the train to Kinosaki Onsen. Even the train matches the destination. Old town. Old train. The queue was already quite long when we arrived. All hurdled up for the free seating section of the train. Naturally we didn't get any seats and had to stand almost all the way of the journey which took over an hour and a half or so.

I finally got a seat just a few stops away from Kinosaki. Sat next to this shabby old man with bad breath. (-_-) If that's not bad enough, said ojisan was very keen in having a conversation even though I pretend to not understand most of the things he said. And hey, I'm in a foreign land and in no place to be inpolite to elders. Ojisan kept introducing a good place to visit which I wished we could if we had the time. A place about 40 minutes bus ride away from Kinosaki that offered the unique noodle eating experience that I previously saw on tv where you catch the flowing noodle with your chopsticks and such. But alas, we were tight on schedule and it's just too dangerous to meddle with our plans.

Finally we arrived. There's a mini bus waiting outside of the station that takes visitors to their respective guesthouse. See, Kinosaki Onsen is known for its seven different onsens throughout town and thus, there's also numerous Japanese guesthouses (ryokan) throughout the little town as well. Every visitor is bound to head to one of them. Ours was called Tsutaya.

Tsutaya Ryokan!

Authentic Japanese guesthouses are much much more expensive than all our previous little hotel stays. One night here costed over RM600 PER PERSON which is more costly than our 3-night stay in Kyoto. But we can't go by a trip to Japan without experiencing sleeping on a futon and being served with the best food and service.

This is officially the pampered part of our entire trip.

And by pampered, I mean the best service in town. Mr Receptionist here carried our bags up for us and served us tea in our rooms. And we even had obachan serving us like she was our butler. Obachan was there to prepare our meal in our rooms and even dressed us up in our yukata which Izumi-san, the hotel owner offered to lend us for free. When she offered we hesistated at first because we read on the website that yukatas are rent for a price but Izumi said it's a complement from her and asked us to choose the ones we like. Did I mention that Izumi-san speak fluent English? Probably the best speaker among all the Japanese we've met in our trip.

Tea and biscuit served.

The room. Pweetty.

The toilet. Hahaha!

The toilet is sorta outside of the room, right at the corridor to our room. Yes, we even had our own corridor to our room. Obviously sliding paper doors are not secure enough and therefore we have a typical wooden door with a modern lock which led to a little space before the actual sliding door to the room.

On the other side of the room is another set of sliding door that led to another section with windows looking out to the street. Yes, the sink is here. How nice is it to brush your teeth as you enjoy the morning view of people walking down the street?

Hahaha... these are not our yukata. These were the easy slip-ons that you wear out to the onsens. Every guesthouse has their own design. Thus, the people working in the onsen can easily identify you as guests of which guesthouse and bring back your 'geta' (Japanese slippers) when you're about to leave the bath house.

It's a simple yet amazing system that works wonders. You step into a bath house and remove your slippers. The people there will collect it and keep it aside. Then you go in and enjoy your dip in the onsen. You come back out and they will be ready with your slippers again. Hahaha! Wonderful.

We went around the guesthouse and took some pictures of the place.

And we find 'prettiness' one after another.

Finally we reached the female bath in the hotel. A small hot bath for hotel guests only. We decided to take our first step slowly in private and therefore came here for our first bath together before heading out the the public bathhouses.

When we entered there was already a girl in the bath which left us in a dilemma on whether to enter or not. We felt silly standing there unsure whether to undress and enter. Then the girl came out and was completely comfortable in her own skin which made us felt even more silly for the awkwardness we had. HAHAHAHA! Finally we got rid of all the silliness and just went 'what the hell' and just well, went for it. And there it was the two of us in one bath, soaking in a bath of extremely HOT WATER, giggling with a little awkwardness.


Is this even something appropriate to share here?

After the bath, we decided to head out to town. Here's a shot of the front desk. There were slippers of different sizes for guests nicely arranged right in front. Oh, I forgot to mention that we had to remove our shoes before entering the guesthouse. That explains the slippers.

Of course there were also different sizes of 'geta' for you
to wonder outside. =)

Kinosaki Onsen is known for its seven bath houses located throughout town, each with their own characteristic, i.e. the oldest bath houses, the smallest, etc. This is Goshono-yu.

This is Ichino-yu.

The one other bath house that I managed to photographed. They were the only two we saw while we went out on a stroll during the day with our cameras. We discovered the rest during the evening when we were out on a "try-all-bath-houses-mission".

Guess who was there to greet us when we came back to our room? Obachaaan! And sumptuous dinner! Now before dinner was served, obachan even helped us wear our yukata. Hahaha... and Cubbie was smart enough to have the entire thing recorded because we knew we were on our own the next day when we checked out and switched to a budget-friendly hotel a train stop away from here. We simply could not afford another night of such luxury.

The recorded video even came in handy this year during Bon Odori as we fussed about wearing our yukata for the event... which reminds me I haven't even blog about that. @_@ *hopeless*

Now let's get back to sumptuous dinner. =)

Scallopie. Crabbie. And Sashimi.

Even the rice came in style.
Gosh how Cubbie love the rice that she ate two bowls of it.

Mission accomplished!
Time for a stroll outside to loose all the pounds we just gained in that one meal.

And we didn't even need to ask anyone to help us take our photo. Someone offered. See how nice Japanese people are?! They saw two silly gals taking photos of each other and came forward to ask if we need any help. Now that's real hospitality.

Remember the bridge? Yup. This is the night view of that same opening shot at the very top of this post. Water clear enough to actually see the reflection of the bridge even during the night.
How pweeetty can it get?

See! Everyone is walking around in their yukata.

Oh, and if you think coming back to a room filled with food was amazing....

This time we were greeted with laid-out futons.


Yeah, we slept on the floor but that turned out to be the best night of sleep throughout our stay in Japan. Cubbie desperately wants to own a futon now. Hahaha...


Oh one last interesting point. We heard sirens through the night, assuming people kinda went overboard in soaking in the hot spring and passed out. ^^;; So like always, moderation is the key!

Next update: Bon Odori in Japan!

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