The Ryokan -- A Traditional Japanese Inn
Trip Start Apr 10, 2012
17Trip End Apr 25, 2012
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You enter the ryokan area (there are several, large and small, new and very old) through a large gate across the road. As you walk across the bridge, you can look down into rushing water racing over moss-covered rocks. Old gnarled tree limbs reach across the stream.
As they got our room ready, we sat in the lobby at floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the creek's rushing water and a bamboo stand and covered performance stage on the opposite bank. We were served the same bitter green tea I had at the castle's tea house and a red bean jelly-like sweet
A Japanese-only speaking host showed us to our room. Luckily, Brent was with us. Even he didn't understand everything that was said. I later realized this ryokan was strictly geared to Japanese guests. There were no other westerners on the property.
We settled in and had a small snack in the room. A beautiful round lacquer box was presented which contained the makings for tea. Everything is beautifully presented!
Three yukatas -- summer weight cotton kimonos -- were in the room for us when we arrived. We donned them right away and kept them on throughout our stay.
Then it was off to the baths! Very awkward at first -- we didn't know at what point we were meant to strip. Through gestures the Japanese women explained to us what to do. We left all all our clothes and big towel in a basket in the big dressing room. We then took a tiny towel to the common shower area for washing off before entering the waters. I made the mistake of sitting down on a low stool for doing my absolutions
We went directly to one of the outdoor pools. There were three women already there. I quickly overcame the embarrassment of being publicly nude. Susan, not so much.
The air was crisp and the water deliciously warm. Hot when you first get in, but your body adjusts. You're looking out over a lush green hillside and hearing the water rushing below. A wonderful sensation. We tried the other pools, too -- two inside and two outside. They all vary in size and temperature.
We had requested dinner at 7 pm. We were led to a private room with tatami mats, and a large low table and "chairs" that are like stadium seats. They're beautiful cushions with contoured backs for support. They were actually quite comfortable.
The meal was a feast of at least a dozen courses. We were served sashimi, chicken meatball nabe, a tofu/vegetable hotplate with miso sauce, radish salad, cold soba (buckwheat) noodles, several kinds of fish, pickled vegetables, squid, scallops, shrimp, and lemon sherbet
While we were at dinner, staff came into our room and shifted the central table and seats to the side of the room. They then placed three futons with all the bedding on the floor, ready for us to crawl in. There futons were comfortable. We kept one of the windows partially open so we could sleep to the sound of the waterfall just outside our room.
The whole idea of a ryokan is to relax. The natural hot springs, the comfy robes, and serene surroundings all contribute to the experience.
The next morning we took another trip to the baths. There were fewer women this time, but one lady brought in her young daughter. She looked to be about three years old and was absolutely precious.
Breakfast was an enormous buffet in a banquet hall. Two types of seating .. cushions or low chairs.
We took a taxi back to Aizu Castle so that we could re-visit the gift shop. In the two days since we were there, the cherry trees had gone from being in bud to full blossom. They were simply gorgeous!