Postcard from Japan: Kinugawa Ryokan

I know, I know… one week I’m in snowy Portland and the next week I’m back in Japan. What can I say? My blog posts are a little like my mind at the moment – scattered and random.

There are two things I like to experience during every visit to Japan – some temple viewing and a trip to an Onsen. Thanks to some great planning by my husband and mother-in-law, an overnight trip to Nikko covered both experiences.

We loaded up a rented mini van with the entire family – including my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, his wife and our two nephews. That meant one large mini van by Japan standards. It took some very careful driving by my brother-in-law to navigate through the tight Yokohama streets.

It took us about four hours to reach the the Kinugawa Onsen Hotel, which greeted us with some fleeting autumn color. I imagine that this part of the country is stunningly beautiful in October – and also stunningly crowded.

The hotel was a traditional Ryokan which means that all the rooms have tatami floors, and someone will come to lay out futons while you’re off eating a traditional Japanese 5 course (rougly) meal.

This hotel also happened to have an onsen which I visited on three separate occasions during our overnight stay. Of course I couldn’t take photographs inside the onsen so the following poster will have to do. There were two separate onsen rooms and they had designated men and women times for each so I was able to visit both during our stay. Each room had a washing station (where you wash before getting in the onsen), a large indoor heated bath and several outdoor bathing areas. One room also had massaging bathtubs and a sauna. There was also a dressing area with hairdryers, lotions and anything else you might need to make yourself presentable again after your onsen experience.

The outdoor bathing areas were my happy place. I want an onsen in my backyard, although we’d also have to build a 20 foot fence for privacy so it might be a logistical challenge.

Possibly the best thing about visiting a Ryokan (besides the onsen) is that they provide you with a Yukata (robe) to wear during your stay. You can walk around the hotel in your robe, eat wearing your robe and even sleep in your robe. They even provide robes for children – who of course immediately assume they’re provided for ninja practice.

And toe socks! Who could forget the toe socks?

Dinner was served in a HUGE banquet room in the hotel. I think they gave us that room because they knew we were accompanied by four crazy boys with ants in their pants.

Dinner included a vast array of small plates of food – some I recognized and others were more…interesting. Of course I tried everything.

After dinner I visited the onsen one more time before we called it a night. In the morning, I took another trip to the onsen (making the most of it) and then walked around the hotel with my camera before we headed out to a day of temple viewing. I’ll share pictures of the temples in another post because, well, there are a LOT.

Thomas took this one.

And Kei took this one…

A hotel employee took a group shot…

…and then insisted on another under the hotel sign because free publicity (I guess?).

Back soon with 1001 temple photos.

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