Japanese Art of Relaxing – The Japanese way to chill: Ryokan & Onsen

writing on JR Limited Express Chūō Line from Matsumoto to Tokyo

Not alone for a change: My sister came all the way from Germany to Japan to visit me (although I guess she wouldn’t have wanted to visit me so much if I had worked in Novosibirsk…).

Since I have to work except for Good Friday, which I took off here, only yesterday was the opportunity to make an excursion that leads us out of Tokyo. By the way, it is not advisable to book at short notice at this time of year; the cherry trees are in full bloom in Matsumoto, which makes the time for the high season with many fully booked hotel rooms.

But as Johanna wanted to spend the night “down-to-earth” for my taste anyway, we finally found a hotel with onsen. I say spare because the typical Japanese way to spend the night is to roll out a very thin mattress (we needed two on top of each other…) on the floors laid out with rice straw mats (“tatami”). Ryokan is the name of this traditional Japanese dwelling, in which all people usually sleep in the same room. In our room there would have been room for up to five people on the space, which is used during the day as a living and dining room. Shoes are completely taboo on tatami mats, and slippers are also available throughout the hotel to ban street shoes as far as possible. These rental shoes fit more or less, but it takes getting used to wearing “foreign” slippers and I’m not a huge fan. But the bathrobes known as Yukata, which are tied with a belt called Obi and worn for the Onsen visit, were pretty.

After a short look at a relevant Youtube video to learn “17 different ways to tie an Obi”, we decided, however, to wrap it a few times and do a loop for the moment.

Onsen, by the way, is the Japanese form of a spa. Since the region around Matsumoto has some hot springs, there are quite a few of these Onsen hotels or Ryokans with this kind of traditional bathing establishment. Men and women have separate areas. In our hotel there were not only different Onsen, but also several pools with all kinds of bells and whistles – ionized water, whirlpool-like round pools with funny light effects. But by far the best was half the open air with an infinity pool view over Matsumoto at night. Even if it was quite fresh with 14 degrees in the evening, the 40 to 42 degrees warm water warms more than enough.

Tattoos are tolerated as long as they are not evil yakuza gang tattoos. Nobody complained to us, but it is also not the case that there is a bouncer who first performs a visual inspection. If you are there as a couple, you can usually rent a private Onsen and share a bath tub, e.g. with a view of a Japanese garden, without attracting curious glances.

Too bad that we couldn’t spend more time here. Thankfully the spa is open until midnight, but this morning at 10am we had to check out and so we used the free shuttle bus to the city (instead of 2,000 yen for a cab) to visit the castle, which is why we chose this destination at all.

// Ryokan Hotel with Onsen: Shoho Hotel in Matsumoto

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *