Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Ryokan Experience ~ Ito, Japan

After 5 days in Tokyo, we are arriving today in the little town of  Ito, down on the southern peninsula.

Mr. C has booked us into one of our greatest travel adventures ever ~ we are staying in an authentic Japanese Ryokan.

This is housing in traditional (ancient) Japanese fashion.  There's no furniture to speak of, and only tatami mats for flooring;  and we will be served our Japanese meals in our room by our room attendant.   All the doors and walls are sliding, but for the exterior glass slider, and are made of paper.  

Oh, and that no-furniture thing means no beds, either; they will come in at night to make our futon beds on the floor.
I love that there's a TV in the room (notice it in the right corner)
 ~ but nowhere to sit to watch it.

Well, except for cross-legged on the floor.

But first we alight the train and decide that strolling the few blocks to the hotel would be more interesting than taking a cab.  

We do this whenever feasible.  It gives us a chance to stretch our travel legs, and stretch our minds a little at the same time.

Immediately we see that this little town on the sea 
exists on what comes from the sea.  

Although I love calamari, I've never seen squid 
spread out to dry in the sun like this.   

I'm fascinated that it looks like 
they've given the poor darling a face!

We arrive at the Ryokan ahead of check-in time, which we knew would be the case.  So they are going to hold our bags for us, and we are off to explore.

We will lodge in 4 such Ryokans during our month-long stay in Japan, but this is by far the most authentic, with the hot springs coming off the hill right into the onsen baths; and stepping back to five generations of family ownership.

I've read up on the Ryokans, and because they are so traditional, there's lots of importance attached to proper etiquette.  They are very sensitive to you treating their way of life with utmost respect.

So we are prepared for the shoes off and 'slippers only' inside, then other slippers inside the room, and special slippers in the toilet.  Lot's of etiquette.

Now we are headed out the door to do a little exploring.  Dinner will be served to us in our room this evening.  And that's the real adventure.  

Because it's Cherry Blossom time, we hop back on the train to the next little burg, where Mr. C knows that we will find miles of cherry blossom lined streets (literally miles).   

These are white, and they seem to go on to infinity.  

It's really magical, strolling beneath these dainty little blossoms, so delicate that they almost disappear in a photo.  

Reminds a little of cotton candy ~ once you reach out to touch it, it's mostly just air and color.

Sometimes they're pink.  I can't decide which is my favorite.

But we must get back to get changed into our Yukata's in time for dinner.  This is the Japanese style robe / house dress / loungewear that's provided for us to wear while in our room, and to the hot springs baths later that night.

We find them to be quite comfortable.

The furniture is another matter.  One small (low) table, and two really awkward (uncomfortable) chairs.  If you're not used to it, it's just difficult.   

This is our "bathtub".  Rustic is one word that comes to mind.  But the water is the "onsen", special hot springs water.  So we'll see if that's enough to redeem it.

Everything for the meal  is brought to our room on these trays.  I'm impressed, as there are so many many tiny little dishes at each meal.

Our room attendant brings and serves us each meal.  English is almost zero.  You can see that I am tentative, at best.  I do not recognize a single item on the dinner menu.  I'm game, but.......tentative........I don't conceal my concern very well.

The entire meal is a mystery.  I'm trying to get acquainted.  
That's fun.  
For a little while, at least.

A beautiful sushimi plate ~ don't you agree??

This I can embrace.

Except for the fish head.

And more beautiful food.  A sushi roll of some kind, and something pickled, along with a little ginger.  The rest I'm not sure of.

Oh, but the swan!  I was excited about the swan!   Do you know why???  Because I knew whatever was inside was cooked!!

(And it was........lovely cooked fish.......delicious!)

These Japanese hot pots are pretty nifty, and they will cook all manner of veggies, soups, fish, etc., for us in our room ~ 

How do you know when the food is cooked, you might ask?  
It's simple.  You wait til the flame goes out, and it's done!

Every dish is a piece of art. 

And it's no surprise that there is very little obesity present in a society where desert is chopstick size.  One bite, that's it.  Can't tell you what it was, most of their desserts gelatinous and rice-based.

Now they come clear the dishes away, and it's time for bed.

The bed is in the closet.

And they come make it out for us.

I had my doubts, but it was extremely comfortable.

It turns out we slept very well, and tomorrow is another day in Japan. 
Just wait till you see what's for breakfast.  

And dinner.  It tried to crawl away.  I am not kidding you...........


  1. So wonderful that you got to experience the cherry blossom time of year in Japan! Photos are beautiful and I love seeing the pictures of you two at this Ryokan! The expression on your face in that one photo is priceless. What beautiful plating and such interesting information about the furniture and the beds! Oh my, oh the places you’ve been!!! Great article!! Oh and, some of my favorite photos you've captured are of the senior women at the various market venues. You have a great eye for these!

    1. Cherry blossom time in Japan is famous for a reason ~ it's hard to describe how magical it is. We were lucky enough to follow the blooms from south to north as we traveled, each town a little different than the one before. I always think the women at market have such a story in their eyes.......makes me wonder what their life is like......

  2. Sheri you have a great photographic eye and you are braver than most to try this! What wonderful knowledge you impart! So exciting! Love to you both...Deon MccRacken

    1. Thanks, Deon ~ I don't think of it as brave as much as getting my full Yen's worth (or Euro's worth or Crown's worth or Forint's worth) of cultural experience! I'm aware, above all, that I may never pass this way again......so it's now or never. No regrets!


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