Travel Diary: Japan 2015 Part 5
Finally a multi day post! This should help speed things along.
Something else that we had been planning for a while now! Visiting an onsen town: Kinosaki. In my opinion Winter is one of the best times to go to Onsens/hot springs because they warm you up instantly.
Kinosaki is an onsen town about 2.5 hrs away from Kyoto and it is also one of the most famous Onsen towns in the Kansai region. So with that in mind, we decided to check it because neither of us has ever been to an onsen town before. What can I say? Walking around in the town when we first arrived, it felt really surreal. The architecture seemed even more traditional than Kyoto, despite all the modern conveniences. When combined with the out of the way location, it felt like we were in some sort of story book.
We were staying in a ryokan, but the rooms weren’t ready yet as we had arrived a bit early. This place was seriously old school in that they still used a paper logbook which we signed to confirm our sign in and there wasn’t a computer in sight at reception. With a few hours to kill we giddily wandered around the town taking in the sites and in my case, buying all the snacks. This warm mochi was a speciality. It was perfectly chewy and sweet. Even though we had snacks, lunch was still a necessity, especially considering how the area speciality, crabs, were in season.
The town is pretty small, but there are a few walking trails and a ropeway with a temple in its midst. From memory you need to go through the temple gates to get to the cable cars but you don’t need to actually enter the temple. The observation deck at the top is meant to give you some pretty amazing views on Kinosaki but instead we had a view of the very very misty mountains. Interestingly, there was also an old playground here. It was strangely desolate but relaxing.
At this point my feet were thoroughly wet and I was ready to check into a warm room. I had read that in Kinosaki it’s pretty popular to walk around the town centre in yukatas but I assumed that since yukatas are really summer gear that we wouldn’t be able to do that. However, after checking in, the staff helped me pick out a cute yukata to wear about town. There were also simple cotton yukatas in the rooms which were a lot easier to put on and take off.
The staff helped me change and prepared some tea and snacks for us. After warming up it was time to explore the town again! Kinosaki is full of ice cream and beer places. Apparently, going to multiple onsens and stopping for ice cream and beer is quiet the past time. In spite of the cold the ice cream was delicious by the way, so smooth and creamy.
We choose to have a slightly earlier dinner so that we would have some time after dinner to explore more onsens. This was a bit of a mistake because there was so much food! And so much crab! We had to rest for a while before we could go anywhere.
After nightfall Kinosaki is also beautiful. It has that Spirited Away vibe and the onsens open until pretty late. It was pretty fun getting extremely warm in the baths and then going out in the cold and snow temporarily immune to the elements. We also picked up a giant pudding from the convenience store between the onsen and the ryokan. Despite the heavy dinner, R (Finally giving my bf a name!) managed to finish it all, with a little help from me.
Maybe I was exhausted, but the futons were amazingly comfortable and I quickly nodded off to sleep after watching a few minutes of Japanese talk shows.
Breakfast was bright and early at 7:30am. To be honest, I thought that breakfast was even better than dinner last night. There wasn’t nearly as much food but everything tasted so fresh and nutritious. Somehow, it felt like this was exactly what I needed to start the day.
The reason for such an early breakfast was of course, so that we could hit up another onsen before we checked out. Onsens in the morning are a whole lot less crowded. I think I was one of the only 4 people in the massive onsen that morning. So, if you want to visit an onsen but are a bit self conscious about being naked with heaps of people, it’s probably a good idea to visit in the morning.
Originally we had planned to take an overnight train to Tokyo that night but all the cabins were booked out. On top of that, it was snowing like crazy and we were both frozen to the bones. At this point we were both a bit cranky at each other and decided to take refuge in a café to figure out what to do. Eventually we settled on going back to Osaka at a cheap hotel so that we could continue shopping.
Before that, a quick visist to another onsen and some snacks for the long trip ahead. The onsen was probably the most average out of all the ones we had visited but on the plus side it did the trick and warmed me up. This was also the best pudding that I have ever eaten by the way. Thinking about it now makes me wistful.
I can’t in good faith recommend that hotel that we stayed at. I also can’t remember what it was called apart from the fact that it was close to shin Osaka station. The best thing about this place was really how cheap it was and that fact that it was close to matsuya, which has the best value for money beef bowls out of all the major chains. In Japan even the cheap 450yen beef bowl with miso soup and pickles is super tasty.
We shopped in Shinsaibashi again. I found some second hand lolita stores and visited some of the lolita brand stores, but unfortunately, as always when shopping, I forgot to take photos!
In Kinosaki we stayed in Morizuya. They were really well priced and well located. The biggest plus is that they had their own private onsens that you can use if you’re a bit shy or just want a bit more privacy. As with most ryokans they are a bit more dimly lit and the stairs are numerous and steep which is probably not ideal for young kids and the elderly. The staff didn’t really speak much English, but most things were pretty self explanatory and as with most places simple phrases and body language goes a long way.
As with most ryokans in the area they offer an onsen pass, which gives you access to the 7 major onsens in the area as part of your stay. We went with a half board plan which includes dinner and breakfast. The dinner by itself is on the pricier side (from memory around 5000 yen) but breakfast is rather cheap.
If you’re interested in lolita shopping, most of the stores are located in America Mura. I recommend this guide for a general intro to the shops and where they are. https://teatwosugarsplease.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/lolita-osaka-lolita-shopping-guide/. I found some pretty good deals at maiden clothing, which I’ll share with you in my final loot post!