Onsen in Nantan, 2016

One of the main things my husband wanted to do in Japan was visit an onsen. Most of the best spas are in the snow, single sex and naked. Seeing as we had our daughter with us we had to find a family onsen near Kyoto that allowed swimwear.

Our journey to Rurikei Onsen in Nantan began with a local train through plunging rivers and mountain tunnels. It seemed like the spa was in the middle of nowhere already, but the best was yet to come.

When we arrived at the closest train station, we found out that we had missed one of only a couple of buses that go to the spa in the morning, so we had to catch a taxi. As the cab climbed further into the mountains and the meter ticked over, I feared that we were lost.

Eventually, we pulled up to the Rurikei Eco Resort Village and there was not a tourist to be seen. The functional spa had pools, hot spas, cold spas, reading rooms, relaxing rooms and a foot tub where fish ate the skin off your feet.

The prettiest was the traditional looking outdoor spa with bamboo decorations and I liked the indoor waterfalls. The weirdest room was the mysterious room that had coloured rocks on the roof that could be seen glinting in the dark room.

The resort also had a hotel and healthy eating restaurant attached to it where we had a tasty light lunch. It also had the only beer vending machine we saw the whole time we were in Japan. I was beginning to think they were a myth.

With time to kill before the free afternoon bus back to the train station, we wandered around the surrounding gardens. The backdrop of mountains was beautiful and they were building a little tent area for future campers. Lots of autumn leaves up here, a cute little friendship pavilion, a water wheel and real waterfalls.

They were setting up the gardens for Christmas with lots of colourful lights, a few Christmas trees, reindeer, angels and even Santa’s sleigh that you could sit in. There was also a strange kids playground that consisted only of stone animals, like Narnia. There were kangaroos, tigers, giraffes and duck statues mixed in with real cranes in the river.

While we were waiting for the bus back at the spa entry with the old folks, I felt the ground roll underneath me. One of the older ladies started freaking out and we realised it must have been an earthquake. Small, but still shaky, it was a very odd feeling.

We caught the train back to Kyoto, happy in the fact that we had been somewhere only locals go and had our last dinner in a neighbourhood restaurant serving Kyoto specialities like mackerel, fried chicken and sake.

Related posts: Markets and Manga in Kyoto, 2016Gion, Kyoto, 2016Food and Fervour in Kyoto, 2016Kyoto, 2016Takeyama, 2016Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

10 things I have learnt from travelling

  1. I used to have lists and must do everything. I have learnt that going off the list brings nice alternative surprises.

2. I used to think the place was the most important thing. I have learnt that it’s sometimes the people that make the place.

3. I used to think that what you ate when you travelled was unimportant. I have learnt that food is a big part of travelling and often what triggers your memories more than anything else.

4. I used to think that souvenirs were the most important things to gather. I have learnt that photos and memories are much more precious.

5. I used to think travelling solo was the best way to go. I have learnt that travel is nicer when you have someone to share the memories with after the trip.

6. I used to trust what other people said about a place. I have learnt that you can’t trust what people say about a place- you have to go and see for yourself.

7. I used to think that places constantly changed. I have learnt that the more a place changes, the more it stays the same.

8. I used to think once you have been to a place there was no need to go back. I have learnt that there’s always somewhere new to go, even in places where you have been before.

9. I used to think you could go back to a place and it would be just as good as the first time you went. I have learnt that you can go back to a place, but never back in time.

10. I used to think that all places in the world were different. I have learnt that inevitably some places remind you of other places.

Most of all, I have learnt that the world is a beautiful, magical and amazing place and to enjoy its best to stay positive.

Or perhaps I knew this all along.

#travellessons travel blog competition

Related posts: Traveller vs Tourist, Travel rememberings, Solo trip to Hawaii

Markets and Manga in Kyoto, 2016

After breakfast at our regular café, we headed to Nishiki Market. The market roof was stained glass of many colours and beautifully illustrated banners showed which section of the market we were in.

We saw tofu being made in barrels, washi paper, Kyoto gift boxes and all the usual vegetables and seafood. There was a great arts and crafts shop that was selling kimono dolls, hair clips and fans- one of which cost 21,600 yen!

There was also a pretty little temple hidden behind white lanterns at the end of the market. It had chains made of paper cranes and some dragon statues, including one in a box that moved.

The rest of the day was our daughter’s choice so we went to the International Manga Museum. A friend of ours who spent three days there had recommended it to us. We soon found out why, as the museum was also a library of four floors of manga books.

Unfortunately, the main display was in the process of being changed, but there was an interesting display in the regular area showing a timeline of manga and the differences between it and normal animation.

Our daughter loved the big bright yellow mascot of the museum and the life-size placards that she could pose for photos with. She was also happy, as there was a television in the library showing moving manga films.

My favourite part was seeing the manga comics from the year I was born and buying Sailor Moon comic book number one for our daughter.

We saw an entertaining picture show called Kami-shibai. This is what they used to have before television and consists of a box with comic placards that are moved by the storyteller as the story unfolds. They used to be very popular and I could see why as the narrator was very interactive with the audience.

Our daughter’s choice for lunch was sushi train, so we went to one of the better-known ones in the area and we all ate our fill. Then we went back to the play park in the Imperial Palace Gardens.

After she had tired herself out, we went to a local restaurant for dinner and planned the next day- a journey into the unknown to find a family onsen in the mountains outside of Kyoto.

Related posts: Gion, Kyoto, 2016Food and Fervour in Kyoto, 2016Kyoto, 2016Takeyama, 2016Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and Harajuku, Japan, 2016

Gion, Kyoto, 2016

Again on the search for Geisha, we spent the day in Gion.

First we went to the outskirts of Maruyama-koen Gardens. There were long pathways leading up to mountains flanked by tall pine trees. There were lakes with bridges, stepping-stones and weeping willow trees. There were locals taking pictures next to the big gingko tree.

We saw a crane on a rock, but no Geisha.

Next we went down the main street of Gion. There were buses, streetlights and a big red temple. There were alleyways, houses that hid private gardens and a colourful flower shop with blue orchids. There was a Hello Kitty shop dressed with autumn leaves and one with Japanese style hair ties, fans and kimonos for both little girls and boys.

We saw places with fans hanging over doorways, but no Geisha.

For lunch we went to a traditional Japanese restaurant that served delicate tempura served fifteen different ways. There was a family gathering enjoying a banquet. There was green tea ice cream for desert.

We saw pictures of geisha on the walls, but no Geisha.

Instead, we decided to look for Ishibei-koji- the most beautiful street in Kyoto. The street was long, narrow and wooden with a hook at the end. It was indeed beautiful. Around the corner there was a rabbit curtain over a doorway.

And so it was, when we were searching for something else, that we found Geisha.

There were two ladies, painted in white, with high wooden shoes, even higher hair and strange structured bags, who emerged from the doorway of a garden. There they stood, just like that, framed by the wooden gateway with the hills in the background posing with tourists for photos.

Lovely ladies that they were, they didn’t seem to mind that they got stopped every step they took. They waved to our daughter as they shuffled along slowly and I feared that it might take them all day to get where they were going.

I later learned that they were probably geisha in training, but this did not take away from the thrill.

We had found our Geisha girls at last and they had definitely made my day amazing.

Related posts: Food and Fervour in Kyoto, 2016Kyoto, 2016Takeyama, 2016Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016