Three Hiking trails in and around Osaka

image

Hiking has always played apart in our travels, ever since Rei was capable of walking considerable distances we started taking him out on the local trails around Osaka. Osaka being an enormous city you wouldn’t imagine there being any hiking trails nearby but these three trails are within an easy thirty minutes from Osaka. Continue reading “Three Hiking trails in and around Osaka”

Korakuen one of the best gardens in Japan.

image

Korakuen Park is one of the three most famous gardens in Japan located in the city of Okayama. The garden dates back to 1700 when Lord Ikeda Tsunamasa had it built. The gardens were used to entertain important guests such as Feudal Lords but was used by ordinary people on certain days.

The gardens like many set in Japan are perfect for strolling along the paths and cover over 133,000 sq metres like many landscaped  gardens in Japan the garden features ponds full of koi,streams,paths and  a hill that can be used as a viewing point. An unusual feature of the garden for Japan is the use of expansive lawn.
Continue reading “Korakuen one of the best gardens in Japan.”

Hakone more than just viewing Mount Fuji.

image
In our previous post Hakone Circuit: How to see Mount Fuji we wrote about taking the boat across Lake Ashi and riding the cable car to catch stunning views of Mount Fuji. If I were to go to Hakone on a day trip from Tokyo then that would be the first thing I would recommend but the area has a lot more and deserves more than just a day trip. Here are some other suggestions on what you can do in the area. Continue reading “Hakone more than just viewing Mount Fuji.”

Hakone Circuit: How to see Mount Fuji

hakone7

Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone Izumi National Park, less than 100 kilometres from Tokyo. The scenic area is famous for its natural beauty, hot springs and its views of Mount Fuji. Hakone is made up of several towns which includes Moto Hakone and Hakone – Machi. Continue reading “Hakone Circuit: How to see Mount Fuji”

Our Review of Kosenkaku Ryokan in Arima Hot springs

Choosing a ryokan in Japan is a difficult task as they come in all different shapes and sizes some are small operations ran by an elderly couple while others are large with over 100 rooms.  We suggest you choose a ryokan that has its own hot springs and provide meals that are included in the price. Ryokans are often located in isolated places and they serve the best meals known as Kaiseki Ryori which is a course meal using local ingredients.

Recently we stayed at Kosenkaku, a ryokan located in Arima Hot springs. We stayed for one night which included dinner and breakfast so without further ado, this is our review.

Location

Kosenkaku is located in the charming traditional village of Arima, one of the oldest  hot spring towns in Japan. Arima is conveniently located near Kobe which can be reached in 20 minutes by train. Osaka is only a short bus ride away and only takes around an hour to get there. To get to Kosenkaku cross the bridge in the heart of town and access is up the hill.

Check in

We were greeted by a man at the archways of the property who took our bags and directed us to the lobby to be checked in. Japanese service at ryokans are always of high standards and here was no exceptions. We waited in the lobby with hot towels and an ice cold drink before being driven to our room in a golf cart. Kosenkaku is one of those big properties that I mentioned above. The cart stopped at the hot springs and restaurant  showing us around the property before taking us to the room.

Rooms

Kosenkaku actually has two kinds of rooms, the traditional rooms with tatami floors and where the futon gets layed out on the floor and you sleep there unfortunately for first time travellers to Japan this is probably the kind of experience you are looking for but we stayed in the log cabins  which were spacious sleep I think up to six people upstairs and had a spacious living room as well wait for it…….It’s very own spa.

We loved the room spending a lazy day in the spa or on our veranda where we played cards, sat around talking and generally just relaxing. The WIFI worked fine in the room at good speeds but we hardly used it as we really just wanted to get away from it all. Hot springs can do that to you

arima 1

arima 8arima 7hotspring 12

Food

Food for me is usually the make or break part of any trip to a ryokan.  What I liked about the meal here was that the volume wasn’t too much, usually after eating at a ryokan you are so full that you really start to feel uncomfortable but at Kosenkaku you were first served a plate with four dishes, a salad, some sashimi, pork that is usually used for ramen and a green brocoli tasting jelly like dish. Next there was the chicken soup followed up by the tender Kobe beef grilled perfectly served with paprika and garlic chips.  Still feeling hungry dessert was green tea ice cream, banana cake and pudding.

Arima is located in a rural area so not much fish like you would find at a ryokan that was located by the sea which I prefer but the food was still of a good standard. Staying here also gives you the chance to try Kobe beef.

arima 2arima 5arima 3arima 4

Hot Springs

What you have all been waiting for, what were the hot springs like.

Hot springs in Arima became famous for the medicinal value. The waters have been known to help heal ailments so many people come each year to soak in the hot springs and hopefully improve their health.

The hot springs in Arima come in two colours either a redish brown colour that is known in Japanese as Kinsen which gets its colouring from the rich content of iron and sodium. The other is ginsen which is colourless and contains radium and carbonate. These hot springs are next to each other but both are located inside a room I and didn’t have an amazing view of the sea or nature that you find in some hot springs where there baths are located outside.  What we did like was that the bath wasn’t scorching hot like you find at some hot springs.

After coming home I did some research to find out that there are no outdoor hot springs in Arima.

Overall

If you are looking for a place to relax and haven’t been to a hot spring or stayed at a ryokan by the time you are in Kansai then I definitely recommend for you to stay here because of its rich history and its medicinal value. They are one of the most famous hot springs in Japan however I love an outdoor hot spring and there is nothing better from jumping between indoor and outdoor springs.

The food is good but have had much better from other ryokans plus we really love seafood. The food here doesn’t blow your minds like you get at other ryokans but the Kobe steak is really good.

The log cabins are great but this might not be for everyone especially first time visitors to Japan. They do though have more traditional rooms.

Something I haven’t mentioned is this ryokan also has an indoor swimming pool that not many ryokans have. It is only opened during the Summer months though.

Would we stay here again. I think we would. It’s close to where we live and we really did love the log cabin with the spa in its room. We will leave it up to you to decide if you would stay here.

What do you think, would you stay at this ryokan? Let us know in the comment section below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arima hot springs one of the oldest hotspring towns in Japan

As we walked through the cobbled stone pavement, traditional wooden buildings flanked both sides selling souvenirs to the people who wandered the street,  exhausted we slumped down on the bench and put our feet into the warm waters of the foot hot spring to help soothe our aching muscles, relieved that we had finally made it to the tranquil village of Arima one of the oldest hot spring towns in Japan.

hiking 9

hiking  11 hiking 10

Earlier we had scrambled up rocks, pulled on chains and climbed ladders as well as explored terrain that you are more likely to see on Mars with its red grainy sand that form the rock gardens as we hiked Mount Rokko, the mountain that separates Kobe and Arima. We did all this just to reach the town that we could very easily have taken a train or bus but what would be the fun in that

.hiking 1 hiking 5 hiking 6 hiking

Arima came to prominence because of the myth surrounding the hot springs. Two gods descended to earth one day and saw three injured crows bathing in a puddle. Some days passed when the gods happened to come upon the three crows again. To their amazement the crows had been cured. Thinking this was remarkable they took a closer look at the puddle to discover a hot spring with a miraculous healing effect. From this day forward, the crows and two gods have been worshipped as guardian deities of Arima hot springs.

Now 1.6 million people visit annually to soak their bodies in the hot springs to help heal ailments. The water either a reddish-brown colour known in Japanese as Kinsen gets its colouring from the rich content of iron and sodium. The other is ginsen which is colourless and contains radium and carbonate.

In Arima there are a few options to take a bath either in a public hot spring or in a japanese hotel or ryokan. After a long hike we first took a bath in the public hotsprings soaking in scorching hot water of around 45 degrees. These baths are both indoors and very simple but it felt like heaven as we bathed in them. relaxing, eyes closed and the hike that we had just completed a distant memory.

Arima also has accommodation which has its own hot springs and even though very expensive we highly recommend to stay the night to not only experience the hot springs, a ryokan but also a traditional town.

We stayed at Kosenkaku, a large ryokan that also has log cabins which we stayed in. Together we relaxed played card games on the veranda, read books and soaked in the spa that was in our room.

hotspring 12

Arima hot springs is where Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a famous samurai who unified Japan came to soak his body to heal after a long battle so if it was good enough for him, then its good enough for us and it’s definitely good enough for you.  If you get a chance when you’re in the Kansai area to try a hot spring then get yourself to Arima whether you get there by train, bus or foot.

How to get there

There are three ways to get to Arima Onsen from Kobe or Osaka the cheapest way, the practical way, or the fun but expensive way.

The practical way is to take the Hanshin, Hankyu or Sanyo Line to Shinkaichi (新開地) just west of Kobe, then transfer to the Kobe Railway Arima Line to terminus Arima Onsen. (Note that express services terminate at Arimaguchi, so you’ll need to switch to a local train.) Alternatively, if you’re coming in on JR, get off at Kobe’s Sannomiya station, take the Kobe Subway to Tanigami (谷上), and connect there to the Kobe Arima Line. In either case, make sure to transfer at the Arimaguchi station onto the (one stop only) Arima Onsen line. The whole trip will cost around ¥900-1000 and take about half an hour.

The fun way is to take the Hankyu line to Rokko station and continue up Mt. Rokko on the cablecar (10 min, ¥570/1000 one-way/return). Connect with the bus loop line (10 min, ¥250) to the Rokko Arima Ropeway, then take the ropeway down to Arima Onsen (12 min, ¥980/1770 one-way/return). The Rokko Arima Katamichi Jōshaken (六甲有馬片道乗車券) combination ticket (¥1700 one way) works out marginally cheaper, and also lets you ride around the top of Mt. Rokko. This route is more scenic, but best avoided with heavy luggage.

The cheapest way is to take a bus from Sannomiya bus terminal that leaves several times a day (50 min, ¥720). The final destination of the bus is Arima Onsen, so it’s easy to find the bus in the timetable and no chance to skip the stop accidentally. You should pay the driver upon exiting, no need to get the ticket at the booth. The bus is rather small with no place for heavy luggage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hot spring experience in Japan

Everyone seems hesitate at first to experience their first hot spring, the nerves of bathing naked in front of strangers , in front of people who  look totally different to you. You will feel it’s natural for them to want to take a peak. After all you have a different shape and body type to the Japanese that you will be sharing the hotspring with.  There is no need to worry as this most likely won’t happen.

Your nerves, your apprehension to be naked in front of someone shouldn’t be enough to stop you from experiencing a hot spring while you are in Japan.

Fortunately, I’ve never had a fear of dropping my strides, don’t get me wrong I’ve never been a stripper or anything. Though I have to admit I have once dropped them on the stage at a sports function performing at a players concert with the soundtrack of The Full Monty but that is another story………..

There’s also the added pressure of following protocol. What happens if I do something wrong. Don’t worry about it first of all wash your body like you would at home, make sure you have rinsed all the soap off your body and then take a dip in the hot spring.

Remember the springs are not to be swam in, just relax and soak in the natural minerals that are good for your body. The water temperature may feel hot at first as the temperature is usually around 45 degrees but your body will soon adjust and the aches and pains from a full day of sightseeing will soothe away.

If there are two hot springs one being indoor the other being outdoor then bathe in the indoor one first before moving to the outdoor one, feel free to move back and forth if you like.

When finished change back into your clothes or the hotels yukata which is similar to a kimono. Feel free to walk around the hotel/ ryokan that you are staying at and also the surrounding areas outside.

image

image

 

If you’re really concerned about having a hot spring in front of others then quite a few places have a couples hotspring which you pay extra to use and can then bathe with your partner, family or friend. The photo taken above is a jacuzzi using hotspring water which was actually in our room.

Dinner Time

If you’re staying at a Ryokan, a Japanese style hotel then the meal that they serve will be amazing. I recommend having dinner at the ryokan because a lot of ryokans are located in an isolated area far from other restaurants .

The food for me is just as good as the hot spring and overall makes a great experience. If your ryokan is near the sea then you will be served a course of seafood consisting of fish, sushi and sashimi. During the Winter months if the area is famous for crab then this will also be part of the course.

If the ryokan is located in a rural area in the mountains then the meal will consist of  local vegetables and meat dishes consisting of pork or beef.

The food will be served delicately on a dish, served in tiny portions but the dishes will keep coming and soon you will be struggling to end your meal. The last dish is usually a small plate of fresh fruit grown in the region.

There are sometimes two choices for you to have your dinner either served in the main restaurant or sometimes served in your room. You will also be given two choices for the meal time usually 6.30 or 7.30pm.

If you have your meal at the restaurant,  when you have returned to your room you will discover that your futons(Japanese style mattress) has been laid out on the tatami (Japanese straw matted floor).

image

image image image image image image image image

image

image

Sleep Time

The futons will make for a great sleep, especially if it’s Winter time, the smug tight fitted cover will keep you nice and cozy but even after all these years of living in Japan I would rather sleep without the rock hard Japanese pillows and this is no exaggeration when I say this. I’m sure you will have a great sleep and wake up refreshed which is exactly what the hotspring experience is supposed to do.

image

Have you experience a hot spring in Japan or another country? We would love to hear about your experience.