Kinugawa Onsen, Nikko, Japan
“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps.” Frank Herbert
Being naked with friends and strangers is a traditional practice in Japan. Being American, I’m a little uptight about that. But having been to Japan a few times, I have gotten a lot more comfortable with it.
Staying at a ryokan (Japanese style inn) in an onsen town in Japan is my most favorite thing to do now. I have been lucky enough to do it a few times. I’ve written an earlier blog explaining ryokans and onsens so I’m not going to do it again. Feel free to read that one. https://travelwellflysafe.com/2013/06/11/onsen-and-ryokan-in-japan/
Water is very important in Japanese culture and religion. There are many hot springs in Japan and you are probably never more than an hour’s drive away from one.They are found in remote mountains, on beaches, in major cities, on the edges of cliffs, on the tops of hotels, on river banks and just about anywhere.
This time we stayed in Kinugawa onsen. It is a Hot Springs resort in the city of Nikko two hours from Tokyo by train. It is located on the Kinugawa River where there are many onsen hotels.
Of course we needed lunch. Yuba (skin of the tofu) is very popular in Nikko. At one time there were many vegetarian Buddhist priests here and there are still many Yuba restaurants.
We had soba with yuba. Yuba can be cooked in many different ways. These were heavy yuba -like matzoh balls – very filling.
We stayed at the Kanaya Ryokan Hotel and it was wonderful. They have indoor bathing and showers for people like me who can’t bathe outside in the cold. The rooms are spacious and lovely. The food was delicious as well. http://www.kanayahotel.co.jp/english/index.html
The bathing areas are constructed of stone, built with fragrant woods and decorated with Japanese ceramics. Everyone was Japanese.
The main thing at a ryokan are the kaiseki meals. (food photos -Reiko Hirai)
They consist of six to fifteen different foods.
They go from appetizers, sashimi, side dishes, simmered, sauced, pickled, seasonal, local, marinated, grilled, steamed, hot pot, rice , miso soup and dessert.
Kaiseki meals are one with nature and represent shapes and things found in nature. (persimmons, persimmon ice cream)
The food is always prepared and decorated in a seasonal and visually beautiful way.
There is always way too much and it is all about mindfulness and being focused on each course.
The first day I ordered American breakfast and got kaiseki American breakfast. It was smoked meats, cooked meat, steamed meat, sausages, bacon, salads, pickled vegetables, soup, yogurt, raw eggs, cooked eggs and croissants. The next day I had the Japanese breakfast which is what they do best. It is a lot of food as well but mostly fish. The boiling waters and steam of hot springs can be used for cooking. Onsen tamago which are eggs boiled in hot spring are often served.
I went hiking around the Kinugawa River on the crisp fall mornings.
The colors were amazing.
Healing with hot springs has a long history in Japan. Samurai healed their wounds and relaxed in springs after battles.The thing about onsens is it feels good when you just sit there. The water is warm, the air is cold and everything is really quiet. It is a place to make some good decisions about your life.
Yo I sorano tabi o,