Autumn Japan 2016 – [Day 5] Hirayu and Shin Hotaka

Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 and 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |


Matsumoto 松本

The next morning we woke up to a quiet Matsumoto. Not sure if we had just gotten up too early, or that it was a sleepy day for Matsumoto, but we were virtually one of the only few people around (we didn’t leave the hotel extremely early either, maybe around 7:30am?)

We walked over to the Matsumoto Bus Terminal and booked our tickets for the first bus leaving to Hirayu Onsen. Waited in the warm of the not-yet-opened shopping mall for about 20 minutes before heading out to the bus station to queue for our bus. Lucky too, the station was not indoors and we were quite cold waiting for the bus to arrive! The bus was quite comfortable, and we fell asleep for most of the ride. When we awoke, we had a pleasant surprise! The autumn leaves were in full bloom as the bus twisted and turned around the many mountain bends before finally arriving at our stop – Hirayu Onsen.


Hirayu Onsen 平湯温泉

7:50am to 9:15am | Matsumoto Bus Terminal to Hirayu Onsen Bus Terminal via Nouhi Bus, Y4220 Round Trip
URL: https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/highwaybus/matsumoto.pdf

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Hirayu Onsen, one of the oldest and largest of Oku Hida’s onsen towns, sports many ryokans and is said to have been discovered in the 1560s. The temperate here dropped almost 5 degrees from where we had started, and it wasn’t surprising to find ourselves relatively cold.

We walked a few minutes to our hotel, where we left our belongings at. Our hotel was REALLY NICE by the way. After leaving our belongings at the hotel with the promise that we would be back before 5pm, we then headed back to the station and took another bus up to Shin-Hotaka Onsen area.

The bus was not due to arrive for an hour, but we easily busied ourselves shopping around the one and only shop near Hirayu Onsen – looking (and tasting, for most part) all the interesting snacks and items near the bus terminal. We also bought a skewer of Hida Beef to share, which turned out to be really nice and tender!


Shin Hotaka 新穂高

DIRECTIONS:
10:40am to 11:16am | Hirayu Onsen to Shin Hotaka via Nouhi Bus
URL: https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/routebus/hirayu_shinhotaka_line.pdf

From the base of the beautiful Shin Hotaka, we took the ropeway up towards the peak. The views on the way up, and the many stops along the way were mesmerizing.

The area along Shirakaba Station was particularly beautiful. Autumn seemed to have been perfect here – the trees were the best shade of fiery and gold you could possibly imagine, and although it was cold, it was not freezing. Just the right type of temperature to explore!

Contemplating on using the footbath but deciding against the suggestion as we were both wearing leggings (under shorts, no less) which would make it horribly impossible to soak in, we went on – taking the cablecar further up.

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Shin Hotaka Ropeway is known for it’s unique double floored cablecar! Yes – there are actually 2 floors though essentially they do not really make much difference in terms of the view, but it was quite an interesting sight nonetheless. The cost that it took for the round way trip was Y2900, but I feel it was worth every penny for the views.

The peak of Shin Hotaka allowed us to see all the mountains clearly in a row – which was lucky considering the forecast was not that good for the day. Nevertheless, we bundled ourselves tightly and dashed out to take some photographs, before retreating back in the warmth – it was subzero temperatures by the time we were at the peak. After which, we started shopping for both souvenirs, as well as clothes – I got myself a pair of gloves (which now that I think about it, not sure where it is LOL)


Okada Ryokan Warakutei

http://www.okadaryokan.com/eng/warakutei.html
Check In & Out: 2st October 2016 to 1st November 2016
Cost: Y23328 for 2 persons, Twin Room with Half Board
Rating: 39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline

Upon descent back to our hotel, we quickly checked in. Our room was pretty spacious and overlooked the carpark. It was a traditional ryokan, my favourite type of place to stay when at an onsen town. The room was just as I loved it – tranquil, quiet and superbly clean.

It also, unlike most ryokans Sue and I have stayed in, had an ensuite bathroom – which we both were appreciative of but never got to use – who would use a bath when there are onsens downstairs! And EVERYWHERE!

We headed out to a nearby onsen to get our onsen-fix, and headed to Hirayu no Mori (Y500). It boasted almost 8 female baths, and we enjoyed ourselves trying each one – though admittedly not much different from each other with the exception of the number of people per pool. But we still had quite a nice time walking from 1 pool to the next to see if any of them were the perfect temperature for us. After about 1 hour of soaking, we finally hauled butts out of the pools, and headed off – not before buying some snacks in the nearby Hirayu no Mori shopping in case we were hungry later. We knew from past experience that nothing was going to be open after dinner!

Headed back to our room, which thankfully was only a 5 cold minutes walk away – looking ridiculous. Hair wrapped in towels, wearing boots (because it was cold), shorts and wrapping a huge jacket to block ourselves from the wind and cold temperature steadily dropping, we hurried back. It was so cold that by the time we returned, we could see our breath in the air as we spoke.

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Dinner was prepared at the dining room, with a separate compartment for each of us. Our (my, actually) name was written on a nice plaque in English, where most of the others were written in Japanese. The full spread was not even laid out before us before we had begun to tuck in – kaiseki dinner was DEFINITELY my favourite part of onsen towns and something NEVER to be missed in any part of a trip!

Of course, there were many variations of kaiseki, because each ryokan used the area specialties, making no 2 dinners ever the same. Normally you could also explain any allergies or preferences earlier for them to cater, but I would really suggest that unless you have severe allergies, to try everything served. It’s really worth the try!

Of course, this was only snippets of what we had – there were also hot components and rice. We even could overhear the next room’s conversation about how she had not been expected to be served without question – she wasn’t able to eat fish. The Japanese manager (who was actually the one serving us), had to go over and help clear up the issue. Personally I totally understood where she was coming from, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for the Japanese manager who probably would not have known to expect to have to validate food requirements especially if the customer had booked from a third party site. Nevertheless, we continued our food happily and then returned to our room.

Back in our room, we headed back out to our hotel’s onsen! There, we met a lady who was actually born in the same country as we were. She was a little concerned as to how to go about using the onsen, and was glad to find 2 english speaking ladies to guide her. She hurried out for a moment to explain to her husband what had to be done, before returning.

We spent another good 30 minutes soaking in both the indoor and 2 outdoor baths. The outdoor baths were especially nice because it was so warm while the weather was cold – and the lights the barely illuminated the onsen pools made it all the more comforting to take a soak in.

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We returned back to our rooms, futons already laid out in front of us. We ended up opening our snacks to eat! YES! Onsen does make you hungry LOL. Our favourite was definitely this mochi that we had found at Hirayu no Mori – which was pretty similar to what we had initially bought in Hakone and were dying to eat again. We ended up buying extra packs for home! hahaha

As we rolled into our nicely arranged futons, we both fell asleep like lambs – by a miraculous time of 9pm! Guess that’s what happens when there is no WIFI in your room! LOL


Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 and 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |

 

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Autumn Japan 2015 – [Day 3] Kinosaki

Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8+


The next morning, we shipped our luggage to Toyama, where we would next be stopping by. But first, we would make a side-trip towards Kinosaki Onsen, a quaint little town known for its onsens and laid back atmosphere.


Kinosaki Onsen 城崎温泉

DIRECTIONS:
Osaka Station to Kinosaki Onsen Station
9:10am to 11:52am > KONOTORI 1

We had enough time for breakfast, so the family bought some bread to eat while we waiting for our train. I didn’t feel particularly like bread, so instead I bought an onigiri bento to eat onboard, and had it while the train whisked us towards our little onsen town. If you did not know, you are allowed to eat on Japanese trains, unlike the trains back home, where food and drinks are strictly forbidden and can result in a fine.

We arrived shortly before 12pm, and were greeted by a few staff from the tourist center. I had read previously that there were shuttles that brought you to your ryokan, but we decided to walk and explore the place.

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The little town was pretty easy to explore, with only 1 main road. Quaint coffee houses and little souvenir shops littered the streets. A beautiful canal stood in the middle of the attractive town, with many cafes littering the multiple alleys. We looked around for a little, wanting to try the famous beef in this district, and finally found a little restaurant that served it at a good price.

My dad had his favorite katsu curry, while I opted for sashimi. A beef bowl was also ordered by my sis so we could taste what it really felt like. The beef was really nice and tender.


Onsenji Temple 温泉寺 & Kinosaki Observation Deck

DIRECTIONS:
Approximately 20 to 25 minutes walk from Kinosaki Station.

DETAILS:
Kinosaki Ropeway Opening Hours: 9:10am to 5:10pm, closed on 2nd and 4th Thursdays, except during national holidays
Cost: Y900 for round trip to observation deck, Y560 to onsenji temple

Onsenji Temple, just a quick walk from the town center, was built on top a small hill, overlooking the rest of the town. It can be assessed easily via an easy 20 minute hike up or via the Kinosaki Ropeway. However, when we arrived at the base of the ropeway, there was a sign saying that a bear had appeared, and thus only round trips were being sold – hiking was strictly not allowed. So up the ropeway we went.

The observation deck was pretty empty, and had a great view of the little town below. There was also a small little snack shop where different types of snacks were available – I bought a matcha cheesecake, which was quite nice.

Afterwards, we headed back down – we skipped Onsenji Temple because they weren’t keen in viewing it. Heading down, I spotted onsen tamago~ (onsen boiled eggs). While waiting for the eggs to cook, my mum and I rested our feet at the nearby foot bath.

The onsen tamago was just how I remembered it, really soft and really warm. Definitely worth a try if you’re there!


Morizuya Ryokan

URL: http://www.morizuya.com
Check In & Out: 17th October 2015 to 18th October 2015
Cost: Y34560 for 2 persons, Twin Japanese Room with Half Board
Rating: 39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline

One of the most beautiful things to do in Kinosaki is to walk along the nostalgic canals in yukata. As we returned to the ryokan, we spotted a few people doing just that. Upon reaching our ryokan, we were given the choice to don the provided yukata. For females, an extended choice was provided for us to choose from, whereas the males were not given such options.

He then taught us how to wear the yukata, which was wayyy simpler than the kimono version I had tried earlier that year. We were then allowed to wear that yukata out to explore the rest of the town. My sis decided to explore the town a little more, while my mum, dad and I decided to hit the onsens.


Onsen Experience

Kinosaki is famous for its 7 onsens located centrally around the town. The initial idea was to at least try half or more of these onsens. We started out with a random onsen we spotted nearby. Simply tapping our YuMePa (which we collected shortly after arriving at our ryokan), we entered the ryokan.

The onsen was really nice. My mum and I sat there for a good 10 minutes before we figured it was too hot to continue staying inside. We redressed and went out, where my dad was already waiting. I bought a cold milk to rehydrate and cool down my body, which was really refreshing.

After that, we walked around a little bit more. Night had set and the canal was reflecting beautiful evening tones as we returned to our hotel.


Kaiseki Meals

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Before leaving the ryokan, we had requested if our kaiseki meal could be done in 1 room instead of 2, so we could have dinner as a family. Fortunately they had agreed to this, and it was something that they had done special for families who were travelling together. It was a really nice gesture on their part.

The kaiseki meal was crazy. Tajima beef and crab was both served as we savored course after course. By the middle of the meal, we had already overeaten, and I had no choice but to take out the yukata – it was getting way too uncomfortable to continue eating in it.

My dad and sis had already collapsed on the floor, and the meal wasn’t even over yet! The food was really good, and the atmosphere was really nice and quiet as well. We didn’t realize it at the time, but the rooms seemed to be fairly soundproof. (I’ll explain this slightly later).

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After our meal, my sis and I decided to venture out for another onsen. We went in the opposite direction this time, and found ourselves in a nice onsen, where we soaked for awhile longer.

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Although it was the second bath I had had, I felt super comfortable and sleepy by the time the shower was done. I bought another bottle of milk, and we headed back to our hotel.

It was only 9pm, but we felt so tired we were ready for bed. Just as we were about to fall asleep, we heard a sound of the little girl crying – she was the daughter of the owner of our ryokan. My sis went out to see what had happened, we thought maybe she was playing and fell. Turns out, she had gotten lost in her own house. Alone, many steps, and crying, and not knowing what to do – no one else seemed to be able to hear her. I ended up half walking, half carrying her down the steps (she was too young to walk them down on her own), where she ran back into her parents’ room, still crying. We left them, and headed back upstairs, where we headed to sleep as well.


Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8+