Posts Tagged ‘Yamamizuki Ryokan’

“Yooproresrah!” exclaimed BusTicketBob.


I was at the bus/train station in Aso, Japan, on the northern side of the volcano bearing the same name. Inquiring as to the proper schedule of the bus to Kurokawa Onsen, a resort of multiple Ryokan-style inns up in the mountains, each with their own unique hot springs. I had asked BusTicketBob about the time table just to make sure I would be on the bus I had reserved, since all the Ryokans were booked full for the weekend and I had (unfounded) fears that I would be riding in the luggage compartment. Siezing a moment to practice his Engrish, and quiz me on my ogre features, he popped out of his office to follow me around.

View from Aso bus station. Aso-san (volcano) in far background.

View from Aso bus station. Aso-san (volcano) in far background.

“Proresrah,” he continued, “Ressu-ring.”

“Ohhhh, you mean am I a pro wrestler? No.”

Pro wrestling is big in Asia right now; there are posters all over Osaka for it, the kids are eating it up, and it also explains the Indonesians’ nicknaming me Boxer and Smackdown.

“How you get so big?” he asked.

“Ah, this? This is just lucky genetics. Really, if I stopped eating crap and took care of myself, I’d be in better shape than Adonis. What you see here is the flabby leftovers from my weightlifting days.”

“Ahh, weirifting. Hai. You body very big, strong. Beautiful,” he commented.

“Wow, uh… I haven’t heard that since I was in art school. Thanks. Perhaps not the appropriate word, though the problem back then was an exit-only issue, and here and now it’s just a simple matter of vocabulary. But I appreciate your comment nonetheless.”

So then was all the polite bowing and arigatogozaimas and whatnot, and he left me alone to wait for the bus. I was one of maybe 5 people on it. So much for those reservations.

Kurokawa Onsen is about an hour’s drive from Aso, along a beautiful winding road up through the mountains. And once you get there, you are treated to real Japanese country hospitality. The spa hosts are surprised to have a foreigner here, and wonder how I ever heard of the place. It’s reputed to be some of the best onsen in Japan, and I’m staying in the ryokan reputed to be the best here, among the best onsen in Japan. It does not disappoint.

Checking in, I was offered a pair of slippers but none of them fit. Source of many giggles from the spa hostesses. Then my surname, which, when said in a proper Japanese accent, can be directly translated to mean alcohol-induced unconsciousness. Many more giggles. So DrunkenStuporSan, the beautiful ogre, wanders the halls in bare feet.

I wish I could take photos of the outdoor pool, but the naked people lounging around in it would not appreciate it, and I don’t think that the spa management would either. So, I’ll rip one of their website photos off and repost it here:

yamamizukiSo basically, you can sit in a shallow pool of steaming mineral water, which trickles down over the rocks into the rushing river below, which is sourced from a waterfall which you can watch and listen to, about 20 meters upstream, while you gaze at the stars above and contemplate your Zen. The waterfall is tastefully lit at night, too.

Then you show up to dinner spreads where they bring you tea and various neat little dishes, and your eat and eat and eat…

Needless to say, it’s an awesome all-around experience.

Appetizer course

Appetizer course

Sashimi course

Sashimi course

Fish and snail...

Fish and snail…

All of these photos were from dinner last night, and they don’t even cover half of it; because I was so excited to be eating all this crazy stuff, I forgot to take photos. There was also soup, and a sabu-sabu (where you cook your own stuff in hot broth), and other miscellanious little things. It seemed like there were 50 dishes left over just for my meal. But the presentation was superb and the flavors and care in each little dish amazing.

For $11, you can purchase a pass (actually a slice of wood) at the visitor center, which gives you access to 3 onsen springs of your choosing in town. Each place you visit removes a sticker from the pass and stamps it with their unique seal. Having visited other reputedly good and recommended springs, I am glad I am staying at Yamamizuki, because it really is the best. It requires a free bus ride from near the visitor center but it’s worth the time it takes to get here.

First place: Yamamizuki. The outdoor spring pool, awesome staff, and quiet natural environment away from the crowd makes it the winner.

Second place: Noshiyu. Right across the street from the visitor center. It’s got smaller pools but it is surrounded by thick vegetation and the temperatures are perfect for long, relaxing soaks.

Third place: Kurokawa-so. Nice facilities, large pools, several pools to choose from, and a cooldown pool as well. However the water was uncomfortably hot at times, its proximity to the highway (traffic noise), and the blocked-off view to the river (which was paved in that portion anyways) bring it down a notch.