Published: December 19th 2006December 19th 2006
Our accommodation throughout the trip was in the traditional Japanese ryokens and onsen. For the Beckhouses and Riddles this was a memorable experience. As well as providing many humorous moments it gave us some real cultural insights into Japanese life.
The ryoken, part of Japanese culture for centuries, were generally small and often owned and operated by a family so there was quite a homely feel to them. Our longest stay was in Kyoto, at Hanakiya Inn which had three guest rooms and a common room - ideal for breakfast and pre-dinner drinks at the end of the day. We booked out the entire ryoken and even made friends with the children of the house. Our host Eimi was charming, spoke good English and of course had plenty of local knowledge to share with us.
After leaving Kyoto we travelled to the religious mountain of Koyasan (out from Osaka) and our night there was spent in temple accommodation, which was another experience, this time being looked after by young monks. In Kanazawa, the Murataya Ryoken had been in the same family for 44 years. The telephone switchboard was the original one with a manual switching system.
A room where we all gathered for breakfast and Gin and Tonics.
accommodation at ryokans in Tokyo, Kyoto and Kanazawa not only allowed us to experience Japanese culture and enjoy the comforts of Japanese hospitality and service but all up the cost for each couple was $95 a night and in Kyoto that included a simple breakfast.
Our two nights in the magnificent Hidatei Hanogi Onsen in Takayama was our real taste of luxury, a tone which was set when we arrived, by the sight of the manager and his two assistants bowing deeply at the entrance gate as our mini bus from the station turned into the drive. Here we each enjoyed our own suite of rooms and staff to wait on us hand and foot. But undoubtedly the highlight was the wonderful hot spring baths which took us up to a new level of relaxation several times a day!
However we paid almost as much as the rest of the accommodation bill for these two nights- but it was worth it! You can find reasonably priced onsens that range from $150 to $200 a night for two and Lyn and Col assured us that they make perfect stopovers on the way to Europe or the USA!
A very fancy meal in the onsen, Takayama
We all dressed up for this 16 course meal.
were expectations and common features in all the traditional accommodation: shoes off at the entrance with slippers provided to walk inside and another change of slippers provided when you went to the toilet - the Japanese have an obsession with cleanliness. Minimalism is the feature of the sleeping area with its tatami floor matting, alcove for telephone and TV and effectively placed wall decorations. The sliding screens and low table and chairs complete the picture. The sleeping mattress and bed linen were generally put out for us in the evening while we were having dinner. A feature of all traditional accommodation is the kimono laid out ready for you to use when you are inside - very comfortable and practical - but remember to keep the knees together!
What was a surprise for the four of us first time visitors was the amazing range of traditional Japanese foods. The Japanese maintain the highest standard in variety, presentation and quality of their food. There were endless variations and combinations of many of the basic ingredients such as tofu, sashimi, miso soup, soba and udon noodles, etc. A popular choice was often tempura shrimp and vegetables. We were all quite adventurous
Typical of the food we ate and the presentation. We had hida beef which was selling for $A30 per 100 grams. We each had a plate full.
in our choices and meals were always fun in discussing, and often sharing dishes. Meals varied from the huge banquets at the onsen (over fifteen dishes) to the $3.50 tasty curry, salad and brewed coffee meal the Cookseys and Riddles enjoyed in the Takashimaya food hall in Nagoya.
As well as the enticing presentation of the food we were amazed at the seemingly endless variety of artistic ceramic, china and lacquerware bowls that the food was presented in and on.
In the markets and temple areas there were many stalls with hawkers offering a range of savoury or sweet snacks which were also always fun and a pleasure to share. In the bigger cities lunch was often to be found in the huge food halls of the department stores - imagine DJ’s food hall in the city only about five times larger. It was great fun to stroll around the aisles where you were greeted by smiling assistants offering you endless samples of their food to try. Within half an hour of entering the store your appetite was gone! The Japanese love their coffee and pastry and we enjoyed our breaks in a variety of coffee shops, patisseries
First breakfast in Tokyo
You can eat anything with chopsticks if you put your mind to it!
and bakeries which curiously always seemed to have a French name.
There are more photos below