Sunday, 27 September 2009

An Onsen & Ryokan Experience At Taenoyu Onsen

After much research prior to our trip to Japan, we finally decided to make a reservation at Taenoyu Onsen which is one of eight ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) in Nyuto Onsen located in the Tohoku region of Honshu.


We were raring to go to Tsurunoyu Onsen at first. Tsurunoyu Onsen is the oldest operating ryokan of Nyuto Onsen. A ryokan so rustic that it does not have plumbing or electricity. But Taenoyu Onsen wins over because of the fact that we actually managed to communicate with the ryokan staff via e-mail.

Taenoyu Onsen is a modern, well equipped ryokan that sits beside the Sendatsu River. Special characteristics of Taenoyu Onsen is the dark golden brown waters. There are seven baths visitors can enjoy at the onsen and we tried them all.

For first timers visiting both an onsen and a ryokan, Taenoyu Onsen comes highly recommended by us (and you know how fussy I can be, right?). The staff there, while not thoroughly conversant in English, know enough to explain their services, giving directions and food offered to guests. Of course, knowing a little bit of Japanese doesn't hurt either. It may not be a luxury ryokan, but still, the service that was accorded to us got us a little bit flustered because we don't get to experience this kind of service often (make it almost never!)

From Lake Tazawa, we took a bus to Taenoyu onsen (bus fares from Lake Tazawa: 350yen , from Tazawako Station: 800yen) and there was a bus stop directly opposite Taenoyu Onsen. Make sure you press the bell when you hear "Taenoyu Onsen mae" - which meant in front of Taenoyu Onsen; being announced in the bus. If you missed the stop, don't worry because the next stop is just a few metres away so you can easily walk back.
Immediately after we alighted from the bus, we were greeted by a staff who was already waiting in front of the ryokan (took a few seconds to alight from the bus as we need to pay for our fares upon exiting the bus). I guess the staff there are well tuned to the sound of stopping vehicle to know that guests are coming. Funny thing was, we were mistakenly thought to be a Hong Kong couple that were also checking in that day. (Yeah, we get that plenty of time in Japan. We were always thought to be tourists from China)

Exterior of Taenoyu Onsen. We were quickly ushered in, asked to change our shoes to indoor slippers and completed our check-in.

The lobby area. The ryokan was fragrant with the burning of incense. Soft, soothing music was played continuously making guests feel relaxed and stress free. There were slippers for indoor wear (green colour), toilet slippers and slippers to be worn outside. Our shoes were safely stashed away out of sight.

Our room. We were shown to our room and tea were made and served. While we were enjoying our tea and sweets, the staff explained to us about the amenities at the ryokan. Earlier, she had shown us the communal sink, toilet and dining area. (Yes, we didn't have a bathroom in our room).

Reservation for private bath time and dining arrangement were done too, all while sipping our hot tea.

View from our room. We slept while listening to the sound of the stream. It was so relaxing. Of course, with such a nice view, we couldn't resist taking a photo. How do we look in our yukatas? The ryokan even has yukata for children of all sizes. Raimie tried a couple on, until the staff found the right size for him.

Toiletries provided which includes a small towel to be used in the hot spring. Facial cleanser, body wash, shampoo and conditioner were available in the shower room located at the changing area.
Slippers to be worn in the toilet. It is a no-no to bring in your indoor slippers in to the toilet. Leave them outside the toilet, OK? :)

The communal sink and sink inside the ladies toilet. Two stalls available downstairs and one in the changing room. I preferred the one in the changing room as it had a bidet there. Toilet seats in both places were nicely warmed so my butt didn't felt cold.

Not having a bathroom in our room was not an issue here. For me, it just felt that I was staying at one of my relatives' (albeit wealthy one) place. Our room was located on the same level as the toilet so that helped too,I suppose. Though walking to the toilet at night, one have to tread lightly as the wooden floor creaks and make sounds. Wouldn't want to disturb other guests. For info, there are rooms with in-room bathroom available but they were more expensive than ours.

The room felt very small when we first entered it (it was a 6 tatami room), but after settling in, we felt the room was just nice and cosy for us. While we had dinner at 6.00pm, our futons were laid out ready to be used. Even the tea sets were changed and wet towel were provided too for us.

Raimie absolutely love the futon, rolling around and playing hide and seek under the blanket. And it was so hard to coax Raimie to wake up the morning after (Raimie is an early riser normally and would wake up way earlier than us!)

Me, the next morning before breakfast pretending to be a Japanese guest of yesteryear. LOL

Next up - our onsen experience; mixed bath and all and our Japanese meals in a ryokan.

12 comments:

  1. Hmm..that couple looked good in their yukatas.

    Staying at a traditional Japanese inn must be quite an experience.

    Did you venture into the mixed bath?? Umm..don't think I would dare give it a try.

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  2. @Mei Teng,
    you think so? :D

    The mixed bath were empty while we were there. ;D

    I guess if you are with a male friend, then it would be much more comfortable than going in alone to the mixed bath. Also, we ladies are allowed to wear a towel in the bath which to me is a lot less revealing than wearing a two piece bikini.

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  3. You all were mistaken to be tourists from China? Haha! Must be your haircut and also Zaini's haircut! LOL!

    Wow! You both looked splendid in your yukatas! If I don't know you, I would have thought you were from Japan! Haha! Btw, who took this photo? Raimie?

    No attached toilets? A little bit of a hassle but it's part of the fun, eh?

    Wow mixed bath! Got take pictures inside there or not? : )

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  4. @foong,
    maybe. ;D

    Yeah, Raimie took the photo of us.

    Not having a toilet in our room was surprisingly not an issue for us at this ryokan. Because we are all in our yukatas, we just walked out to the toilet as is. And anyway, most of our waking hours were spent in the hot spring. We are not that old (or young in Raimie's case) to need to go to toilet in the middle of the night!

    No photo of the mixed bath. But it has a similar view of the stream as the private bath.

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  5. Waaa look so comfy! The place looks so nice... So it was a common bath? Got bumped into any handsome cute guys or pretty cute girls? :P

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  6. Ok instead of posting the comments one by one at the posts, I am going to do it all here! Ha!

    The food is yummy! So there was one thing I was told, once you ate Japanese food in Japan, you wouldn't enjoy much of them back in Malaysia.. Is that true?! Was it really that good?!

    You went to alot of places, and look at that... I was told Japan milk is the freshest! Of course not comparing those straight from farm yea :P

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  7. love your yukata! I miss mine i left at home =(

    i showed hubs this post and he mentioned always seeing that place in movies. hehe

    the view with the stream plus hearing it as you're put to sleep is simply superb! When i go to spas i like hearing such calming nature sounds...it feels so so so relaxing.

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  8. 6 tatami mat room? that's big enough for 3 i believe so since no bulky furnitures there. Oh i just love this leg of your trip....so much authentic japanese experience!

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  9. I've always wondered what it would be like to stay at a Rayokan and experience the true tradition. It looks like a five star hotel :)

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  10. @ladyviral,
    unfortunately no cute guys to ogle at while we were there. Or girls. ;)

    Yeah, you would start comparing (unfavourably) the food you ate there and the Japanese food you eat here. I agree the milk tasted awesome. And the soft ice cream too, you can still taste it's cow's milk. Yummy!

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  11. @Ayie,
    It was truly a relaxing place, despite the fact that it's situated by the roadside. Few traffic helps, I guess. :)

    The room was just the size for us and it was nice to snuggle up lying on the futon.

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  12. @Poetic Shutterbug,
    and feels like one too! Service was impeccable here.

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