After experiencing the fast pace of life in Tokyo and lots of temple sightseeing in Kyoto, our next destination was Kinosaki Onsen (城崎温泉). We felt that we needed to spend some time in a quiet and wonderful place to unwind. Kinosaki is located in northern Hyogo Prefecture on the coast of the Sea of Japan. It is a pleasant town, built along a willow lined river, and is one of the top onsen (hot spring) destinations of the Kansai Region. It was said that Kinosaki was found in the 8th century. It became a popular onsen town as it was said that storks bathe in the marshes of Kinosaki to heal their wounds. Since then, bath houses were built over these sites to take advantage of the healing water. Often, the water is rich in variety of minerals said to have associated with various health benefits.
There are 7 public baths in Kinosaki town and there are many traditional ryokans. Trip to Japan is not complete without a stay a ryokan! A ryokan (旅館) is a traditional Japanese inn which typically feature tatami-matted rooms. For our short stay in Kinosaki, we decided to go for Nishumuraya Ryokan (西村屋本館) that looks fantastically beautiful in this traditional town of Kinosaki. Dinner and breakfast are usually included in the price of the room. The meals served are usually Kaiseki ryori (懐石料理), is an artistic, gracious, a multi-course Japanese cuisine, an equivalent of Western haute cuisine.
At the ryokan, yukata (浴衣) are provided for the guests to put on and stroll about in town and to go to the public baths. Before we left for Japan, I was kind of worried about taking bath in the hot springs. I wanted to know how and what I should do. Basically in all public baths, men and women’s bath are separated. And everyone is expected to be naked to enjoy the bath! No swimsuit is allowed. Each has to clean or rinse the body with the water from the tap using a washbowl before entering the bath. If you want to know more how to take bath, please refer to this useful link. It was a great experience for me, well, being naked and taking bath with the rest of the women that I don’t know!
We were driven to our ryokan. When we arrived, we had to take off our shoes. Then, we were led to our room by our nakai-san (room attendant). Our ryokan looked really lovely with a garden view. While enjoying the view, we served with a cracker and green tea. Before we left, we were asked what time we wanted to have our dinner. Our nakai-san jotted down the time and told us to be on time.
Kinosaki is also renowned for its high quality of seafood, particularly crab. There are many shops in the town that sell crackers that are made of crab and I simply love them. For lunch, we went to a noodle house, which was near to our ryokan. I had a simple soba noodle served with crab in a clear broth that was full of flavours. By just looking at it now makes my mouth water. The noodles, not like the normal kind of soba, it is a bit flat.
After lunch, we walked around the town before we hit 3 public baths and took our time to soak in the hot bath. Nothing was better than this!
After the relaxing time spent at the public baths, we went back to our ryokan. The hospitality and gracious service are just unbeatable. Our nakai-san made sure that we were comfortable by paying attention to the smallest detail. The classic courtesy of a deep bow from nakai-san is something that I will never forget! Nakai-san also served us our meals and made futon (布団), we felt pampered! The kaiseki dinner was so good that each dish made me gawked! One problem I had was that the menu is in Japanese. So, every dish was a surprise to me! Also, there were a few dishes that I wasn’t sure what the ingredients were, but that didn’t bother me much as it was too delicious!
Prawns and Egg roll
Mini Squids, Fish and Sea Bream Sushi
Soup with Mushroom and Sakura Rice
Nabe Hotpot with Vegetables and Beef
Vegetables and Seafood Stew
Rice (being cooked in a traditional way)
Fresh Strawberries and Strawberry Coulis
Green Tea Mochi
Matcha & O-Cha
After our dinner that took 2 hours, we were ready to hit the bed. Nakai-san prepared our futon!
I think, another great experience was the full on breakfast that I had at our ryokan. If you look at the pictures of the dinner, you would have thought that the chef put a lot of effort in each dish and all of them look very very appetising. The breakfast was just as impressive!!
Well, need I say more? By looking at those pictures, I really want to have kaiseki ryori now! I so love Japan that if you look at all my posts about Japan, you will know why. Once again, let me show with you another video that I made.