Currency: Japanese Yen (¥)
¥1 = 0.75p. £1 = ¥133.1
Time Zone: GMT +9 (8 hours ahead of UK summer time)
30th Sep – 1st Oct
We arrived at the ryokan and were greeted by a chap that had clearly studied English but rarely got a chance to use it. But he, as ever, was so nice. Our room was across the small car park in a seperate building and we were given our key with our room name (written in Japanese) and let loose.
The reason for coming to this little ryokan on the outskirts of this small town in the middle of nowhere was threefold:
- To stay in a traditional ryokan with yukata (Japanese lounge wear, not as fancy as a kimono), tatami, futon beds and an onsen
- To stay somewhere between Kyoto and Hiroshima (this stop actually made it cheaper than a direct Shinkansen to Hiroshima)
- To do reason 1 for less than half the price of anywhere else we could find
Part of the reason it was so cheap was that we were not getting the full experience. Ordinarily you get 2 or 3 meals delivered to your room, but we would only get breakfast in a separate breakfast room.
Our room was everything I’d hoped for. We had the mats, fancy window panes, the solo piece of furniture (I don’t think Japanese furniture shops do much business) and, most importantly, the yukata!
After settling in and lounging about on our mats we got hungry. We had seen a sign for a restaurant at the junction we turned off at when walking from the bus. We looked it up using the traditional Japanese free wifi and discovered it was super cheap and had veggie options. We were joyfull at this discovery
At dinner our waitress was, as ever, lovely and again had clearly studied English but had rarely got to use it. She asked where we were from and seemed genuinely shocked we had travelled thousands of miles to come to Onomichi.
After food we stopped by the local supermarket for a bottle of wine to enjoy in our room (our first private room for a week and a half) but not before I tried out the onsen.
An onsen is a traditional Japanese bathing house. Ideally it would be a natural onsen, heated by a hot spring, but there are plenty of artificially heated options that do the same job. The idea is that they cleanse and relax you and it can be a nice way to unwind if there is no karaoke booth nearby.
They have a few rules that are stringently followed across the country:
- Absolutely no swimwear. Starkers is the only option
- Due to the first rule, genders are seperated
- You are encouraged to cover your modesty with a small hand towel when walking around, but this is optional
- This towel must not touch the onsen water. You can keep it on the side or on your head
- You must clean yourself thoroughly before entering the onsen, usually on a stool at the side of the onsen
This particular offering was a public onsen attached to the ryokan, that we had free access to. My first attempt I forgot my towel so I went back to the room to get it. When I got back I followed the rules and washed myself thoroughly, used my little towel for modesty and walked into the onsen, making sure it didn’t touch the water and placing it on the side. It was weird but fairly relaxing until I realised I had forgotten a big towel for afterwards. It was at that moment I also realised that I had put my little towel in a small puddle. Any remnants of dryness in the towel were then wiped out by the steam room. Despite this stress, when I went outside and sat in the warm solo onsen tub thing with the water flowing in from a pretty stone effect chute, I did feel very relaxed.
Once everyone had left the changing room I took the opportunity to avoid embarrassment and go to try and dry myself by wringing out as much as I could, patting and wringing some more. There were also some very powerful hair-dryers that really helped me out in this predicament.
Overall I think it was a nice experience that I’m glad I did. I would like to try a natural mountain onsen one day but it was a good start.
The next day we woke up before our 8:30 breakfast slot and then received a phone call from a lady that only spoke Japanese. I think she was telling us breakfast was ready. We went through to the main building in our yukata and breakfast was indeed ready and waiting for us. It was a beautifully laid out selection of salmon, cold scrambled egg, tofu, rice, hot miso soup, seaweed in raw egg and a raw egg in a bowl. Besides the last 2 I scoffed the lot. Kate was less enthused by the meal so I had some of hers too. Not sure what you were supposed to do with the egg in a bowl but it was a bit much, even for me.
After breakfast it was time to check out. The whole family seemed to be there and we were presented with a beautiful handwritten receipt (despite booking through Hotels.com) and thanked multiple times for staying.
We set off with Bertha and Max to our next stop: Hiroshima.
Urayu Ryokan Urashima is a semi-traditional ryokan situated 3 miles north of Onomichi. It appeared to be family run and seemingly had a fair amount of custom for their attached onsen but we didn’t see many other guests. Unlike our previous stops, this one was solely for the accommodation and it didn’t disappoint. Food was good (for me), room was good, staff were excellent and the onsen was a good experience. I would definitely go again for the price we got.