Back in November, I had the opportunity to travel to Japan for two weeks to meet up with the boyfriend. He had been working there for a few months, and I was able to meet him out there at the end of his work trip.
We started our trip in Osaka, which is also where I had my first Bento box. We stayed in the Hotel Finegarden, which ended up being a semi-love hotel. I should have known there was something funny about the hotel when a friend smirked when we told him where we were staying and told us to be sure to report back to him what we thought. When we entered the hotel, in addition to the normal reception area, there was a display of screens of each of the hotel rooms. The available rooms had a video camera shot of the room, and you could order a room for a few hours from the machine…enough said. Next we took the elevator up to our room. Signs lit up in the hallway to show us which way to our room. They also automatically turned on the TV when we walked in the room. Did I mention the room talked to us when we entered? That was a first. There were buttons everywhere, a slot machine, a karaoke machine, and a erotica vending machine.
|I chose to not include a picture of the erotica vending machine…I’ll leave that up to your imagination : ) But I did go ahead and include a picture of the fancy toilet!|
Next the bathroom. You had the usual sink and toiletries, plus lots of robes, lotions, etc. The tub area had a tub and the traditional Japanese bathing setup. Traditional Japanese bathrooms are set up so that you sit down when you bathe, and you use a removable showerhead. Most also had a higher showerhead that I would use. The tub itself was also interesting–it had lights that changed colors.
|You know I had to include a closeup of that odd shadow box above the tub, haha! It is hard to tell in the picture, but on the left is a flying toilet…no words : )|
As you can tell, this was definitely the most interesting and unique hotel I have ever stayed in. But enough about the hotel, onto our first big travel day! We started out our day with the hotel breakfast. It was delivered in what I thought was shoe cubby, lol. I chose the Western style breakfast, while the boyfriend ate the Japanese style breakfast (which normally includes fish).
Next we rode on the train for about an hour and a half to Nara. Nara is known for its majestic temples and at one point was the capital of Japan. Right outside of the train station in Nara, there is a touristy street with lots of souvenirs and restaurants. We chose to eat at a Ramen house, where we ordered from a machine and paid for it. Basically you insert your money, select the meal you want, receive a ticket, and take that ticket to the cook. For the Japanese impaired, or incompetent :), there are pictures which line up with the number on the machine’s buttons. Fool proof!
|Hello Kitty School Bus we walked by on the walk from the train station…Japan is so happy : )|
|A lot of the Ramen Houses had machines like this where you ordered your food.|
After lunch, we walked up to the first temple park. We paid to get into one temple and museum, but then we were not allowed to take any pictures once inside. But here are some pictures of the first temple park. Nara also has tons of deer, which were once thought to be the messengers of the gods.
|Five Storied Pagoda in Nara|
Next we headed over to the larger temple park where the main attractions were. There were lots more people and deer in this area. We entered the Todaiji Temple, which was once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples. It houses the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha. We were allowed to take pictures inside this temple (I would definitely recommend paying for this temple over the others in the park).
|The deer were everywhere! Some followed you for food while others would even let you pet them.|
|First entrance to the Todaiji Temple|
|I added this picture to give you an idea of just how big this Buddha was|
After visiting the Todaiji Temple, we walked over to the Isuien Garden (cost 800 yen but definitely worth it). It was a traditional Japanese style garden with lots of maples, moss, and ponds. There was also a tea house and watermill. We also ventured over to the Yoshikien garden which was free to foreign travelers. It was smaller, but still pretty.
After walking around Nara a bit more, we took another train to the party district of Osaka—Dotonbori. There were lots of lights, crab places, bars, and restaurants.
Our next stop was Kinosaki Onsen, known for its natural hot springs where a lot of Japanese vacation. Traditionally, the hot springs were used as public bath houses and are now a big part of the tourism industry due to the waters’ healing properties. It ended up being a cute area. We walked around town and rode up a cog-rail like rope-way to the top of the mountain while we waited to check in at our hotel.
|This is for a particular Hello Kelly enthusiast that I know : )|
|A little foggy and misty that day|
Following our sightseeing, we headed back to our hotel, the Kojinmari, to check in. Even though the hotel was very small only having four rooms, our room was very large and had its own private onsen (hot spring). Upon our arrival, we were given a tea service. The management was very kind and helpful. We really liked this hotel–if you are considering visiting Kinosaki Onsen, you should consider staying at Kojinmari, particularly the Rin suite. Check out the hyperlink above for more information and pictures.
After settling into the hotel, we put on our yukatas (similar to kimonos) that we were provided when we arrived at the hotel. Before the trip, I had decided that I would not participate in the public baths in Japan. Getting into a huge bath with a bunch of naked people that I do not know? No thanks! But once I found out that they provided us yukatas to wear, and that people actually walk around in them, I decided that I probably wouldn’t ever be back to Japan so I should just go for it.
Downstairs, one of the hotel managers helped me shorten my yukata so that I wouldn’t trip. The owner gave us some recommendations on public baths and restaurants to visit (our hotel stay included a pass to all of the public baths in the area). We were also provided little totes to carry our towel and belonging with us. He also took pictures of us in our yukatas and later emailed them to us.
|Before you ask…No, we didn’t stick out at all 😉|
recommended, the Satonoyu Bath, which had a view of the mountains in
the daytime. Before entering the bathhouse, I knew the process of the bathhouse, you wash yourself before getting into the bath. But, I did not know the logistics of everything. When you go in, you put some of your belongings/shoes into a locker. Then you split off into separate male and female baths. I followed some ladies towards the baths. All of the signs were in Japanese so I was not sure what I was doing. Needless to say, I was a little surprised when I walked into a locker room of ladies in varying nakedness. Most ladies were getting ready. Being my awkward self, and the only foreigner in there, I walked over to a locker and began taking off my outer layers. Then I acted like I was playing on my phone until someone new came. Then I bared all and followed her into the public bath and bathing area. I sat down and bathed first, and stepped into the jacuzzi area of one of the baths. This particular bath house had a few big baths that also narrowed down into more private areas. There were some ladies by themselves, and some talking with each other. There were even a few children. After sitting in the bath a little bit, I noticed several ladies going up and down some stairs. Of course I couldn’t read the sign, so I took a chance and braved the stairs. I’m really glad I did, because I opened the door into an outdoor public bath with a view of the mountains. The outdoor bath had a stone floor as opposed to a tile floor in the indoor one. There was also a sauna. When I went to leave the outdoor bath, one of the ladies whom I had noticed had followed me upstairs, followed me and stopped me to ask where I was from and where all I was visiting. You know, my buck naked self and a random also buck naked lady talking…not weird at all, haha!
|Our first and favorite public bath house!|
Next we ate dinner at a Izakiya, one of the owner’s suggestions. This was the only restaurant the whole trip that we ate on a lifted floor. After dinner, we visited another public bath. This time I was a pro, and it went much more smoothly 🙂
Be sure to keep a lookout for Part 2 of our Japan Trip–Kyoto, Matsumoto, Nori Kora, and Tokyo!
Planning a trip to Japan? Be sure to check out my tips for traveling in Japan.
Thanks for stopping by!