Our big treat in Japan was a night at a ryokan. That’s a traditional Japanese guest house, where it’s usual to take your breakfast and dinner in the ryokan, actually served in your room. There’s no better places to do this than the Kinosaki Onsen Ryokans. Kinosaki is an onsen town, with lots of ryokans. It’s the perfect location to stay in a ryokan and experience a variety of onsens too.
Our Kinosaki Onsen Ryokan
We stayed at the Ryokan Shinonomeso (sometimes spelled Sinonomeso) – central in Kinosaki and a short walk from the train station. Only one person at the ryokan spoke English, but we managed by means of sign language and had a GREAT TIME. We booked ahead of time (EVERYWHERE WE WENT IN JAPAN!) – and relied a lot on reviews from others. Check out prices and availability at the Ryokan Sinonomeso here.
The onsen is a Japanese spa. Where you go to soak away the stresses of life. The onsen town of Kinosaki has NINE onsens all within a short walking distance of both each other and the train station.
Be sure to pick up your JR Pass BEFORE you get into Japan – it will save you a FORTUNE on trains and makes life very easy. You can buy a 7, 14 or 21 day pass and get it shipped to your home address for free. Click for more information and to buy now!
Kinosaki is one of the top 10 places to see Japanese Cherry Blossom in Spring – why not check out our other recommended top spots?
It’s no cheap endeavor, a night at a ryokan and our overnight visit including dinner and the next days breakfast cost us US $250 plus a few more dollars for two small bottles of saki and a bottle of beer that we enjoyed with dinner. You’ll definitely benefit from reading our guide to staying in a Ryokan in Japan before you embark on this adventure.
For this we got a private room, private toilet, dinner and breakfast served in the room and a pass to the onsens in town. That’s right no bathroom, just a toilet and sink. And that’s normal.
The ryokan had its own baths – one for men and one for women. (and there are no photos… there was nowhere to put the camera!)
Similar to the bath we used on the ferry to Japan it was communal bathing. Although it did throw us that they swapped the baths overnight, so we both got to experience the two different bathing areas that they have.
By baths I mean a shower area and the hot tub bath that is so common here in Japan.
The room in a ryokan is literally that. A room with tatami mats. There’s a low table and chairs.
Our beds were rolled up futon mattresses stored in a cupboard. Also stashed in the cupboard a yukata each and a jacket.
Wifi and a TV gave us all the comforts of home. Not that we turned the TV on at all.
We arrived on the train at just after 1pm. And headed straight to a coffee shop. Check in wasn’t until 3pm, so we drank great coffee and found bad internet connectivity until the rain really really started to come down before we headed in the direction of the ryokan. We’d arrived during a Typhoon!
This was Typhoon VongFong.
Yup. We were sitting out the second typhoon in as many weeks to hit Japan while in a spa town. I planned on being up to my neck in hot steamy water while the wind and rain raged about me.
And so that’s how we found ourselves. Wearing yukata’s, toting a brolly from the ryokan and using the wooden clogs they give you (well I did, Nige’s feet were too big, so he got special western plastic sandals) and tottering down the main street in a typhoon.
In just a cotton dressing gown. Carrying our room key and towel in a basket.
And it was fabulous fun.
Of course the only other people we saw out on the street were two western couples and a group of four Japanese women. And that was it. So, all those worries about naked bathing with a bunch of other folks. Didn’t happen.
But before we get onto how cool it was to sit outside up to my neck in hot water while a typhoon raged around us, what about the ryokan?
Well, it was sort of stressful turning up. We knew that there wasn’t going to be much English, but we figure we’ve coped so far. The biggest worry in Japan is the culture and customs that we know so little about. What if we do something offensive without realizing it? But Japan as a whole has been so helpful, so friendly and so easy to navigate.
Tea is served to us in the room and we confirm what time we’d like dinner. (6pm).
We settle in, head for a quick bath in the ryokan and then get changed into our yukata’s and start reading frantically about “what to expect in your ryokan visit”.
When dinner is served there’s not enough room on the small tables for all the dishes.
Similar to the eating experiences in Korea, there are lots of small dishes.
AND ONE HUMONGOUS CRAB. Each.
We obviously looked dumbfounded because the lady who serves us used hand signals to indicate what we’re supposed to do. It’s my first crab. Yup. There has been crab meat in my life previously, but this is my first full crab.
It’s my first snail too. And that’s actually rather pleasant (much nicer than the giant sea snail I was to try later in Vietnam…).
None of it is bad. It’s all quite pleasant. And there’s just a taste of everything (no, I don’t really know what it all was, but we did eat it all).
Just when we think we’re done, there’s more arrives. And we continue to dig in.
And there’s more. But thats the rice, so we know that means it’s the end.
Well until the fruit.
Once we’re done, we confirm the breakfast time (check out time is 10am tomorrow), we go for 8am (our train is at 11) and we head off to check out the onsens.
Japanese sandals on, brolly at the ready we are soaked within a few feet of leaving the ryokan.
Rain and wind in a typhoon doesn’t come straight down. The sandals, are wooden, with two wooden bars across the bottom. With that and the fact that the yukata, now drenched, plasters itself to my legs means I’m walking with steps that are about a foot in length, about a third of my usual stride. This might take a while….
We visit three onsens. My phone is safely tucked in the room, as there are no photos allowed in the onsens. There are lockers in each onsen with swimming pool like wrist bands. Each onsen is gender segregated, but, as I mentioned, there’s hardly anyone out tonight.
Still it’s good to see that I’m not the only one who decided to keep my underwear on beneath the yukata
This is the coolest onsen. There’s a shower area, and then a steam room, an indoor pool and an outdoor rock pool, where you can sit in three separate pools and look up the hillside to see the storm raging. Sitting in the rain watching the leaves blowing around is cool.
After the shower area here there’s a long rectangular pool with hot jets that are lovely on the back and then go through the glass door and you’re in a cave. It’s a pseudo man made cave, but all the same, it’s a cave.
Well this is a disappointment. We should have come to this one first. It’s a small rectangular pool. That’s it. BORING. So boring that the group of four Japanese women, who are on the same onsen route as me take one look and don’t even bother getting their yukata off.
There are nine onsens in town, but we’ve stopped at three. There are only so many showers and baths that a person can take in a day and the wind and rain are getting worse as we head back to the ryokan to change yukata’s and bed down for the night.
Our beds have been laid out and they’re suprisingly comfortable, a crab-onsen fueled coma sleep begins.
It’s not just a Japanese breakfast that awaits us (after we’ve taken the obligatory shower and bath) in the morning. Although the breakfast is interesting, again it’s another selection of lots of dishes, I could murder a cup of coffee. Tea, though is good.
It’s Autumn Festival in Kinosaki, so we check out and having spotted “guys with pillows strapped to their backs running in the alley behind the ryokan getting yelled at” we head off to see what’s going on.
We’re not actually sure what is going on, but a sort of a float is being toted around the town by groups of guys with pillows strapped to their backs.
Some seem to be pushing, some seem to be pulling and some seem to be not really doing anything at all.
And that was the Kinosaki onsen town. Where we sat out Typhoon Vongfong in a hot pool in the rain.
- Where we stayed in Kinosaki- the Shinonomesou Ryokan
- We loved our Onsen experience so much we’re considering getting out own inflatable hot tub to take with us anywhere!
- Using a Japan Rail Pass in Japan
- What to Eat in Japan