We have traveled to the western board of Japan, Northwest of Kyoto thru a number of towns and villages, across hills, valleys, tunnels and many, many rice fields. The little city of Kinosaki is famous for its natural hot springs and bath houses (Onsen). There are seven Onsen within a one mile stretch of amazingly beautiful, cute-shop lined, bamboo-clad mountain sides, narrow road cobblestoned bridge-ways to boot.
We visited 4 of the 7 onsens in the 21 hours of our visit, each one special in a different way — can’t really recall at the moment which one was which, but some of the features that stuck with me are: old wooden structures, new and state of the art spaces, super strong showering/massage facilities, large outdoor pool, cave-on-the-side of the mountain, supah hot water bath, wet sauna, cool lockers, etc. But, they all provided amazing R&R and each time we left with new found love for ourselves, for each other, for life.
And the coolest part, it came free with the overnight stay in the local, Japanese style B&B (ryokan) where we stayed (well, if one stays at any of them, really).
Speaking of the ryokan, what an amazing little place. Not all that cheap, but the accommodations were fantastic and the food (dinner and breakfast) rivaled some of the best restaurants we have visited in Japan. O-ishi!
Auntie spoke enough English for me to ask a few things and get clear answers and Saki charmed her into joining us in conversation during the fabulous dinner she served in the downstairs tatami room.
Our room was a beautifully kept tatami room with a private toilet room and sink. There were also all the typical amenities: tv, mini fridge, electric kettle, AC. But we didn’t have enough time to partake much of those, after all we were there for the baths.
In one of our outings (the path less traveled by tourists, of course), we found ourselves in the street behind the main drag, passing early on the morning, all the locals leaving their homes to go about their business. SO many obāchans and ojīchans we could hardly stand it. The dwellings straddled a little river and the houses and small buildings on one side all had a bridge-driveway which made it an amazing site to see the cars parked on them (cars barely fit on the bridges and from the side we could see that the paths were quite thin and we wondered how safe that all was… Good enough for now, I guess).
After we checked out, we went on walking to the far end of town, where we had Onsen tamago (eggs). We bought a package of three eggs and dipped the bag into a hot spring stone basin. The bag is tied to slats so you can pull the eggs out after about 10 minutes. We made ours extra soft and they were supah yummy!!!
All along, there are also free, public foot baths (on the sidewalks of a few establishments) and in some places (clearly marked with signs and clean ceramic cups), drinking natural hot spring mineral water. Honestly, it didn’t taste all that good, but it is said to have certain healing qualities and the town sprung (pun intended) from a legendary spring that cured a crane (species of bird abundant in these here parts). There is also something about a monk who prayed 1000 days before a hot water spring pushed its way thru at a particular point… So it HAS to be good for you, right?!?
The local temple/shrine is simply jaw-dropping beautiful. It is very much low season these days so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. How fun! We took our sweet time walking about. We took pictures. We read the signs. We saw some (probably out of bounds normally) back areas. We clapped loudly to wake the gods (this IS the practice, by the way) and rung the prayer bells. Ok, SOME bells are ok to ring, but as I discovered, the BIG bell is NOT supposed to be touched, as it is ONLY used as a warning for large disasters and to gather the entire town together. . . Guess who almost caused a public gathering on the mountain side!!!! But after a big-smiling-faced monk explained this to us… No harm, no foul.
All and all it was a truly fun trip. We did some amazing things, visited fantastic sights, met fascinating individuals, and were ridiculously inspired by the cutest gramma’s and grampa’s ever!!!
Now, on which train track am I supposed to be?