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Relaxing at an onsen in autumn ~

JAPAN | Wednesday, 19 November 2008 | Views [1662]

A rotenburo tub.

A rotenburo tub.

I had a chance to visit an onsen hotel last weekend in Ikeda called Fushiokaku (http://www.fushioukaku.co.jp/english/index.html) and it was quite a treat. My friend and I walked into our lovely spacious (well, spacious for Japan) hotel room, plopped down our stuff and started taking pictures of the room.

We came at a good time because though it is mid-November the leaves had just started changing colors from bright green to vibrant yellow and dark red (called kouyou in Japanese). After asking the staff downstairs where we could take photos of said leaves we found ourselves at a beautiful shrine in the countryside called Kyuanji Temple. For a measly ¥300 (~$3) we could enter and take photos to our hearts content. It was so serene and beautiful that I wanted to stay there forever but alas, the sun was quietly creeping behind the mountaintops and it was getting cold out. Time to head home and soak away our worries.

We headed back to our hotel room, and after a magnificent traditional Japanese style dinner (savory shabu shabu reminiscent of meat fondue, sashimi, tempura, plum wine, and lots of other yummy tid-bits, we tried out the great big rotenburo tub that was part-and-parcel of our stay here. What is a rotenburo, you ask? It is a lovely big tub on the balcony of your hotel room where you can soak up the warm water and the lovely scenery. Our tub was a big black thing and with the steamy hot water I felt almost as if I was a lobster boiling for supper. It was wonderful! I sat in the tub staring out at the dark night through the wooden privacy slats on our balcony knowing that outside there on the hilly mountainside there were beautiful colored trees like a vast patchwork quilt and feeling at peace with the world.

After a cool down break in our room I headed to the actual onsen part of the hotel on the lower floor. As a foreigner I feared that I would be mercilessly stared at so I chose to pick a late time to go so there would be far less people out and about soaking. 10:30 pm seemed like a good time to be there, and it was: there were few people at the onsen. Initially I tried to put on the onsen robe but gave up because it just felt so… weird wearing one. I ended up trooping down in some yoga pants and a t-shirt. Not that it mattered anyway because it all came off once I made it inside. So here I am naked surrounded by 70 and 80-year old Japanese obaasans and while a bit odd, no one made a big issue of it: this is Japan, after all and onsens are a big part of their culture. No one stared, at least not overtly, so it wasn’t even an issue, thank goodness. I felt comfortable enough bathing in the nude making small talk in Japanese with these grandmas who were quite curious about the foreigner in their midst trying to speak the native tongue.

After a quick mandatory rinse off I headed outside to the three bathing pools: scalding, rather hot, and deliciously warm. I skipped out on the scalding pool and started at the hot pool working my way back to the warm one. It was a lovely night out with clouds swirling around the moon and a slight breeze to cool us down. There were dark outlines of trees crowding around the pools and a sakura tree blooming off in the corner. I’m not sure how it was blooming, being November, but there you go. Japanese magic, I suppose.

I called it quits after an hour soak and dragged my sleepy carcass up to my hotel room where I curled up and slept like a baby until the next morning’s alarm buzzed me awake for breakfast. I couldn’t identify most of the breakfast things so I availed myself to the “salad” bar eating mostly salad, potato salad, rice, and miso soup for breakfast. I fell back asleep for half an hour, and after one last visit to the rotenburo tub we said goodbye to our hotel and returned back to the real world.

It was a wonderful, if pricey, experience. I would recommend it out there to anyone if they had the opportunity to do so. While it cost ¥19000 per person (around $190) per night (with dinner and breakfast included!) the rooms were amazing, the food was just stunningly prepared, the rotenburo was very relaxing, and the onsen was quite the experience for me. I loved it and if I had the money to do this again I absolutely would. I also recommend going in late autumn or winter so you have a lovely view from your bathtub.

Happy bathing!

Tags: autumn, culture, fall, hot springs, japan, kouyou, onsen, osaka, red leaves, rotenburo

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