Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Staying at a Japanese Inn

We used a travel guide I found on Facebook in Tokyo to set up our lodging while in Japan.  She recommended at least one night in a traditional Japanese Ryokan with hot springs.  Think of it as a spa vacation for Japanese.  There's a region near Tokyo where there are natural hot springs and we were told each one is helpful in treating specific ailments.  The one we stayed at in Ito, Seizan Yamato, is known for treating fatigue.

We had already done sightseeing in Tokyo and Kyoto, so this was night 6 of our trip.  We took the bullet train from Kyoto to Atami, then transferred to Ito using the regional train.  It was only about 20 minutes from there to the station.  A van from the inn picked us up and took us through town to the top of a hill where we could see the sea and many of the buildings.  It was a great location.

As soon as we arrived, we were offered a cup of green tea at a nice table in the lobby overlooking the beautiful gardens, and had our choice of a traditional yukata, which is basically a cotton kimono with a sash.  We were shown to our room on the 5th floor, where the living is family style.  You all stay in the same room.  The room is used for dining and then the table is moved to the side when futons are placed for the night.  It was simple and spacious.


We all changed into our yukatas.  It was a bit tricky to find something to fit the men because they are both over 6 feet tall.  We also got instructions on wearing the sash, toed socks, and sandals.  That would be our outfit for the duration of our stay.  We checked out the inn while our dinner was being prepared.  There were 4 different pools, which were gender specific, all on the 6th floor.  Two of them were indoor and two were outdoor.  Outside the pool area were some massage chairs and foot massagers, which we all tried.  It was very relaxing!


Dinner was at 7 pm and it was served to us from a low table in our room.  There was so much food!  I didn't keep track of how many courses, but it was more than any of us could eat and it was all so fresh and delicious.  I had read about how the dishes were made to look beautiful and seasonal.  I had no idea!  The presentation of the food was as amazing as the taste.  There was sushi, soups, hot dishes cooked over a sterno, fruits, and dessert.  Because it was my older son's birthday week, they even made a special card for him and brought sparkling grape drink to toast him.  It took nearly 2 hours to eat.  We were assigned a housekeeper to serve dinner, help with the room and answer questions.  She was very helpful in explaining what we were eating and how things would be done.







Because most westerners like us weren't used to bathing in the nude, a requirement for using the hot pools called onsen, the inn staff offered a family spa to be used at 10 pm.  We left the room about 9 pm and used the massage chairs while they cleaned up the room and laid out futons, but everyone was ready to go to bed before 10.  I managed to put Omar to bed and snuck away to use the outdoor tub later.  Before you can use the tub, you have to store all your clothing and personal items in a basket, then wash yourself using a handheld shower at a station just beside the pools.  They provide soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc.  There's a small stool to sit on while you wash.   I was the only person there and got to enjoy the small waterfall under starlight.  It was quite hot and relaxing.



The next morning, we were greeted by the same hostess.  A man came to roll up all the futons and put the linens away.  Then she set out breakfast for all of us.  We requested western style breakfast, and it was a huge array of breads, coffee, fruits, eggs, and more.  We packed and were on our way again by 10 am.  They waved good bye to us as we rode away in the van for our last day of adventures in Tokyo.  This was a wonderful experience.  I'd recommend it to anyone who truly wants to see what Japanese living is all about.


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