Saturday, August 1, 2015

Japan Day 8: Kurama Onsen

I split this day up into two posts because hiking up Kurama Moutain was one experience, and staying up at the Kurama Onsen was a whole different one. After our hike we went back to the inn and soaked in the hot springs, which are separated by gender and do NOT allow clothing at all. I wasn't worried that much about the nude bathing part but was a little freaked out that I would somehow mess up on the etiquette (there are so many etiquette rules in Japan!) and offend everyone in the bath! I made sure to research some guidelines before we went so I wouldn't mess up. Obviously pictures are forbidden in the onsen but here's a link to what it looked like if you're curious! And one more.

The nice thing about onsens is that they're very relaxed and you sort of forget your insecurities and body issues while you're soaking. I was sitting the in hot water on the women's area with a bunch of old Japanese ladies surrounded by lush scenery. John met a Swiss cyclist on the men's side and they chatted about his various trips while relaxing. It's all kind of amazing and I wish I could visit an onsen every week to unwind.

Stairs up to the onsen.

Entrance to the inn.

The whole place was surrounded by cedars which smelled heavenly!
The other part of staying at a ryokan is that you stay in a traditional Japanese room with tatami floor. You're also required to wear the yukata (robe) they provide. It makes you feel very cool. You also get a kaiseki dinner, which is the Japanese equivalent to French Haute Cousine, served in your room. There are several courses which showcase the local and seasonal produce of the area. The food was delicious and fresh and it was hard to keep up. There was a lot of green tea and sake served, but since we can't partake of that for religious reasons we made a Word of Wisdom line and put all the cups to one side. Haha! We're so weird! 

Our room.

The sitting area.

John felt like a samurai lord reclining in his yukata. He wasn't able to sit comfortably in the seiza position.
 and neither was I for very long.

First course: Hot pot, ham with mustard, egg yolk, tofu, milk skin, raw scallops, prawns and sashimi. The eggs in Japan all have these super healthy orange yolks. 

Close-up of the hot pot goodness.

Second course: Tempura

Third course: Meatball soup

Fourth course: local mountain fish. We had to have a little lesson on how to properly eat this.

Fifth course: Soup and another type of tofu.

Sixth course: Sweetest orange I've ever eaten for dessert.
Seventh course: Tea with yummy tea cake treats! 

Our futon beds laid out after dinner. These actually weren't a delight. John didn't like the bean filled pillows. I didn't mind them, butI did wake up in the night with a sharp pain in my hip because the futon wasn't quite thick enough for me. 
I forgot to mention that we were the only patrons of the inn that whole day and night so the staff was there solely to serve us. That was nice! And quiet! In the morning we had a traditional Japanese breakfast downstairs and were the only ones soaking in the onsen. I think we were invited to soak together in the same pool, but we weren't sure we understood correctly and didn't want to create some disastrous situation in case we heard wrong. But, it was peaceful to soak alone in all steaming water! Ah! 

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