Japan, Post #5: Kinosaki Onsen


Disclaimers:

1) These are just tourist pictures, the cheesy ones that everyone takes on vacation, and are not meant to be viewed as professional photography.  We took only one camera, a couple of zoom lenses and no lights: we were on vacation afterall!  We’re definitely not seeking employment with National Geographic here.  

2) We’re not experts on Japan, Japanese culture or religion so take everything I say with a grain of salt. Estimate that I’ll have my facts right about 54% of the time.

3.) To see our pro work (like weddings and portraits) and skip vacation pics, feel free to browse our blog by category!

This may have been our favorite part of the trip and yet we have the fewest pictures!  We were in Kinosaki, just off the Sea of Japan, for only one night and it poured… so we don’t have many visuals.  We also spent much of our time there in our birthday suits, another good reason for a lack of pictures, but before you think I’m getting kinky on this blog allow me to explain…

As it turns out, Japan is in hot water.  A lot of it.  Natural hot springs called onsen are everywhere throughout the islands and the Japanese take relaxation via bathing very seriously.  So when someone suggested we visit an onsen resort town for a night we dropped our plans to stay in a mountain temple like a hot potato (sorry, Buddha, we were just a little templed-out).  It was every bit as dreamy as it sounds…

Set in the mountains, a koi filled stream runs right through the middle of willow lined streets with foot bridges every 50 feet or so, totally reminiscent of Old Japan.  

In addition to the smaller, private onsen housed within each of the many ryokan serving tourists in the area, the 7 public bathhouses are the town’s main attraction.  Staying the night in a local ryokan earns you free admission to the public bath houses, some of which are historic while others are modern.  Some of the exteriors of these bath house were as elaborate as temples:

Each ryokan provided its guests with towels, a bath cady, bathrobes called yukata and wooden sandals called geta (think of your bath flip flops from the college dorm but much more awkward to walk in).  Our favorite thing about this town is that guests walk from one bathhouse to another wearing only their yukata and geta.  Which meant we could walk around town in our bathrobe and no one would assume we escaped from the looney bin!  We were not alone, as the sun went down you could hear the clicking of all the geta on the pavement as groups of people set out for their pre-dinner, evening spa time.  Here’s Sam and I in our yukata – this one has three pieces – an under coat (visible near our feet), a top robe and a jacket on top.

Luckily I was too nervous walking around in geta to feel the cold… I kept seeing myself taking a dive half naked while walking down the street.  Here’s what geta look like, they’re kind of like platform shoes with those two wooden stilts:

Once inside the bath house, you grab a locker and Sam and I had to split up – the gals get one bathing area while the gents get another.   As far as the rest of the protocol, the most important part is to wash yourself before entering any of the hot tubs.  As cool as the indoor hot tubs were, Sam and I preferred the rotembos or outdoor tubs.  The gardens outside were lit up so that you could view maple leaves, reflection pools and persimmon trees ripe with fruit.  It was very relaxing.

Kinosaki is also quite famous for its crabs.  Yes, you are doing your yen to dollar conversions correctly here, some of these crabs are priced between $60-$120 give or take:

In case Sam never told you, I call him the “fish whisperer” because any time we’re near a body of water a fish jumps out to get his attention.  Maybe its his super powers or maybe its just the hopes of a snack but these koi seemed to recognize an orange brother and make a bee line towards Sam on the bridge:

Thanks for tuning in, the next Japan post will be all about trains… 

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