Another onsen town

Back in 2012 we visited the onsen town of Kurokawa on Shikoku island. It is near to the active volcano Mt Aso, and there are an abundance of hot springs and an abundance of hotels dedicated to the experience. You can read about it here. We had a great time, enjoyed the hot springs and have sought out onsen experiences ever since.

For this trip Wilf scheduled us in for two days at the town of Kinosaki, which is near the Sea of Japan beside the Maruyama River. It has been known as an onsen town for hundreds of years. In 1925 a terrible earthquake devastated the town, and when the townsfolk decided to rebuild they leaned in to the idea of enhancing the town as a resort. A side channel of the river runs through the town. When they rebuilt they created a series of little bridges over the little river and lined it with willow trees. Seven bath houses were built – all different in style. In the years since development has been controlled in the town so it retains a real old fashioned charm.

Wilf booked us into a real old school inn. It is a modern three story building, but built in a very traditional style. Once inside the sliding doors we took off our shoes and were issued slippers with our room number on them. No elevators. Our room was on the second floor facing the river. Inside the door is a entry area with wooden floors. A door to the left led to the toilet – a special pair of toilet room only slippers was in there. We took off our slippers and stepped up and into the main room which had tatami mats on the floor. There was a low table there, and the first evening the staff laid out our futons for us. Through another set of sliding doors was a sitting area with a regular height table and chairs. In the corner there was a wash basin. The sitting area had sliding glass panels we could open to lean out and look at the street. No shower in the room – there was a communal bath downstairs we could use. But the expectation was that we’d be trooping off to the big public baths.

Sitting are with a view to the river.

Sleeping on the floor – the getting up and down was rather a challenge!

Also awaiting us was a basket with clothes for us – yukatas (cotton kimonos) with a sash, tabi socks, a jacket and a set of towels. We were also given a lanyard with a pass that would get us into the seven public baths in the town. When we left the inn we wore wooden geta clogs. All day and into the night we could hear the clop clop clop of people walking up and down the street in their clogs. Each inn has its own design for the yukata, so we could spot our fellow residents.

Heading out for a bath.

On the top floor was a spacious restaurant. We had opted for full board, which included dinner and breakfast both days. The kitchen was amazing and the food was delicious. We were never asked about food issues and weren’t told what the menu would be. We sat down and the food began to arrive.

Formal meals in the style we were served are called kaiseki ryori. They are follow a set order, and highlight local foods and the season.

First up – cold appetizer – local crab, and several other small dishes of bites of this and that. There is a hot pot cooking the soup course. Sometimes when we stay at a traditional inn everything is brought all at once. This time things were brought in clusters. And the young lady serving us would tell me what everything was. That doesn’t always happen.

Sashimi course. The little lidded dish contained another course – a savoury custard with fish and mushrooms.

Fried course – tempura and sauce.

‘Main’ course- local beef, grilled. Last course is the miso soup, rice and pickles.

Tea and fruit to finish.

The second night the meal was completely different but followed the same pattern. The ‘main’ was an abalone, which had been steamed in butter at the table.

The thing that I found amazing was that on your first night you had the crab to begin and the steak main. Second night was the abalone. On our second night there were people in the dining room having the crab meal. Which meant that the kitchen was preparing two completely different meals, each of which had nine courses. Yikes! I’d love to see how that was organized.

I’ll talk about breakfast later, but it was the same – different breakfasts for different days, multiple courses for each one.

After our very rigorous day in Hikone we had a long travel day to get to Kinosaki. We enjoyed walking around the town, our first meal and sitting and watching the world go by. Oh – and after all the rain it got hot! We fell onto the floor and our futons and slept big so we could prepare for the adventures ahead!

Author: Sharon

I like to make things. I like to travel. I like to talk about what I'm up to.

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