Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We're back!

We're back after a short break! No prizes for guessing where we went... : )

Daddy had some airmiles to burn. And yah, it was nice to holiday with Mommy again after quite a few years. So we left the kids with the Grands and zoomed off in search of the quitessential Japan Hour experience. You know, the whole ryokan-onsen-kaiseki-"oiiishiii des!!!" combo. The place was a little onsen town called Kurokawa, a 3-hour bus ride from Fukuoka. We stayed at two ryokans there - Yamamuzuki and Okunoyu. Here's what they look like (click on the pix for slightly bigger versions).

Main entrance at Yamamizuki

Traditional Japanese bedroom

Attached onsen bath

Flagship outdoor riverside bath

Main entrance at Okunoyu

Japanese-Western combo room

Attached outdoor bath

Flagship outdoor riverside bath
Overall, we got what we wanted in all its Japaneseness. A few observations though:

1. The ryokans differ quite a bit in style, but also in subtle details which make all the difference, like whether the decor includes kitschy faux-bamboo, whether you can see the hot water piping or whether they conceal it so well that you actually think it springs from that gap in the rocks. Like whether each dish in the kaiseki meal just feels like it has been given that personal touch. Yamamizuki wins hands down, we think.

2. No matter how many times you have seen it on Japan Hour, it's still a culture shock (but in a such good way!). Like how there's no shower in the room (it's in the communal bath), or how there's no bed in the room at daytime at a traditional ryokan (where do you collapse in front of the TV then?). And of course, bathing au naturel in the open (which Daddy enjoyed, but Mommy took some getting used to).

3. That onsen bathwater is si peh hot!!!

4. That we ate surprisingly little seafood. Maybe foreign Japanese restaurants overemphasize this part of Japanese cuisine. The food was still pretty shiok, though.

Kaiseki spread at Okunoyu. Yamamizuki's was better
but served course-by-course, and less photogenic.
Kurokawa itself is a nice little town, in a Japanese-alpine village kind of way. Here's what it looks like.

A river runs through it
The weather was good, and the autumn colours were just showing. A month more and it would have been brilliant.

Nice to get away from the haze!
We also spent two days in Fukuoka, which is a nice little city, much more manageable in size than Tokyo. Food and shopping were pretty good, and not a expensive as you might think. Like-for-like quality-wise, Japanese food is cheaper than in Singapore. Only thing which marred the experience was that we got ripped off at the local food stalls (which were still cute as a button). Nuff said - do unto others, right?

Fukuoka gets even for Newton Hawker Center
Special mention to Maiko, who sacrificed her half-day off to show us what's special in her part of the world. If you are reading this Maiko, thank you so much. You are welcome at our home anytime.

Arigato gozaimas, Maiko-san!


G said...

how come u didnt put the horse sashimi pic up? btw, i take back my words. it looked too scary for me to try..

Fu said...


Was googling for "Yamamizuki" and your post on Tues 17 Oct showed up! Was elated that a fellow Singaporean has been to this onsen and is very satisfied with it. I will be staying there in late Sep 07 for 1 night and wld like to know how did you get from Fukuoka airport to the onsen and from the onsen back to Fukuoka city?

If you dun mind sharing, a bit more info / tips from you on the place wld be very helpful too! Eg can all staff communicate in simple English, is there any additional charges for using the outdoor onsens etc..

I look forward very much to your reply! You can email me and hubby at missheng@yahoo.com.sg and fwjye@yahoo.com.sg