Part 1: Travel Diary
The ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn. Before, it was mostly frequented by the aristocracy, but nowadays, ryokans can be compared to spas with accommodation. Some ryokans have onsens inside, others do not. But the common point is its superb location/environment (often in the nature), impeccable service (with dinner usually served in the room). We chose a ryokan with onsen.
Note: most ryokans are very badly rated (on google or tripadvisor) because the infrastructures are a bit old, and the meals aren’t to the taste of tourists. In addition, some ignorant tourists blame ryokans for not having a private bathroom ahahaha or for serving rice in the morning – although this is the definition of a ryokan. The ryokans are grouped in an association, you will find the list of all ryokans in Japan here. More info about ryokan booking and prices etc. at the end of the article.
Our ryokan 犬鳴山温泉 不動口館 (booking link) is located near Kansai Airport. We take an express train (rapi:t) which stops at Izumisano Station and then we continue the way by bus (n°21) for 20mn. The bus 21 is just in front of the station and there is only one per hour, but good timing, we were able to catch it within a few seconds.
On arrival, I am asked to choose my yukata (pyjamas that look like a kimono)
JB does not have the luxury of choosing. Given his “out of the ordinary” size, we will bring his yukata directly into the room.
And then we discover a spacious room, in the traditional style, but superbly equipped. The view on the small river with transparent water is magnificent. One hears a small waterfall, it is so zen.
I let you discover all this in video:
For this ryokan, we had two choices: a room as we chose it, with free access to a public onsen at the end of the corridor (separate male/female). Either a room with an onsen integrated on the balcony. The price difference is so huge (100€) and some opinions a bit negative (it smells like sewage, the bath was not so clean etc. ). – well, I don’t know if it’s true) that we think that we can be satisfied with a public onsen. Anyway, even with a private onsen, we won’t spend an eternity in there. Here is the photo of a room with a private onsen:
We change into yukata. We discover that we have to wear it in a certain way. A small mistake in the closing direction and you will be dressed like a dead man, not great.
I think he’s doing particularly well at JB.
We then go to the public onsen. As everyone seems to have opted for the room with private onsen, in the end, we are both the only one in the public onsen. It is better than the small private onsen in the room!
The onsen space here is separated man/woman. But some ryokan may have mixed spaces. In this case, it may be acceptable for women to cover themselves with a towel. In any case, be sure to ask about it because the rules differ from one ryokan to another.
Our onsen is very simple, there are two baths at 42 degrees, one inside, one outside the floor below, without glass, with a view of the forest. I admit that I’m not super comfortable because the open bath is in front of a hill. If ever there is a malicious person, he can hide in the hill and see everything (when we go in an onsen, we must be naked cf. our guide on onsens). So I prefer the bath on the upper floor, where we can see the tops of the trees. It is my anxious side which speaks hihihi
In relaxation mode, we return to the room while waiting for the dinner that will be served in the room. The receptionist asked us at what time we wanted to have dinner as well. In the meantime, I’m doing an activity that suits the environment I’m in: paper cutting. I have written a big pamphlet on the art of Japanese paper cutting here.
An employee knocks on our door and serves us dinner on the table. There is even a small fondue, heated with a kind of oil candle. There are so many things to eat that we don’t know where to start.
Gustatively, it’s passable, for two reasons:
- We’re not used to eating all this stuff
- The traditional kaiseki cuisine (served in ryokans and specialized restaurants) must above all emphasize (seasonal) ingredients. So decoration is very important. Cooking and marinades are minimized in order to emphasize the true taste of the ingredients used => we aren’t used to this type of cuisine
So, I sincerely think that the tourists won’t find it super good, but it’s a very nice experience. However, it’s a pity that some tourists criticize by putting a bad rating on Tripadvisor or Google an establishment of this type just because it doesn’t match their western palace.
After a good meal, we wait for an employee to come by to clear the table and put the futons on.
We each have a futon, not super thick, but comfortable. Well, it’s comfortable for me, but JB has back pain every time he wakes up when he sleeps on a futon.
It’s amazing how not having a bed all the time saves a lot of space. I think that when we settle down somewhere, we will be able to opt for this system, not with a futon, but with a closet bed. However, the presence of a couch is non-negotiable, because we find it very frustrating to have to sit on chairs and not be able to spread out all the way.
Day 2 :
Breakfast is included but not served in the room. We leave the yukata and wear normal clothes to go down for breakfast. As soon as we enter the dining room, everyone is silent, they must be surprised to see a white man at the ryokan, and surely curious to see if we like or not Japanese food.
Like the day before, there are a multitude of small dishes and behind me is a table where you can help yourself at will: salad, pickles?
Don’t pay attention to my head, it’s JB’s phone that gives me an alien head 😀
Again, we aren’t used to eating this kind of thing, but everything looks very fresh, well presented and very consistent. Eating rice and salmon first thing in the morning may surprise some of you, but we are used to eating salty food from 6am everywhere in Asia.
We pass one last time to the onsen before taking the shuttle of the hotel which leaves at 10 am and which deposits us at the station of Izumisano Station (it also stops at the station JR Hineno on request).
That’s how our stay in a ryokan comes to an end. Read on for practical advice.
Part 2: Practical Tips
- Transportation :
- Namba station => ryokan: 1600yen/person (including 1130yen for the train rapi:t and 470yen for the bus)
- Ryokan => Namba station : 1130yen for the train; because we took the free shuttle of the hotel instead of a bus
- Ryokan Fudouguchikan: 250€/night for two, dinner and breakfast, public onsen included.
- Official website of our ryokan 犬鳴山温泉 不動口館 or Fudouguchikan: http: //www.fudouguchikan.com/
- You can book the same ryokan as us via Agoda (booking link here)
- The list of ryokan in Japan can be found here. For ryokans with an onsen, you will see the “onsen” logo next to the ryokan’s name
- The ryokans can be booked on booking or agoda. Some don’t have a site or sites where you can book, in this case you have to call them and book (they speak a little English).
- Most ryokan accept payment by credit card, but make sure you have cash on hand in case they are in the middle of nowhere
- Make sure that it is possible to get there by public transportation. Many ryokan are only accessible by car and cabs are very, very expensive in Japan.
- Count between 250€ and 500€ per night for two. Some ryokans do not include dinner/breakfast, ask before!
- The ryokans are made to relax, it’s not really a hotel where you just spend the night and visit the surroundings during the day. So come with this “spa”, “relax” spirit… if you prefer to visit, in this case, choose a normal establishment, an airbnb, a hotel… because paying 250€ for a ryokan to spend the whole day outside, it doesn’t make sense.
- The checkin is usually around 3pm and the checkout around 10am. If you really want to spend a full day you need to book 2 nights. Not necessarily necessary.