29 April 2008

Kansai Day 4, 17 Dec 07 - Arima Onsen, Hyogo

After the previous night's of queuing for Luminarie, it was timely to go for a good soothing soak at one of Japan's oldest and most popular hot spring areas - Arima onsen. I totally love soaking in onsens during winter!

Checked out of the b kobe and headed towards Sannomiya Motomachi area in search of lunch. Couldn't resist popping into Patisserie Tooth Tooth to pick up some financiers (I like financiers!). Noticed the chalkboard signage outside the Patisserie? I love such handwritten boards; some day when I open my own cafe cum zakka shop, I must also have my own handwritten signage and menu boards :D Wanted to eat at the cafe, but hubby wasn't interested.
For lunch, we had Mcdonalds. Mcdonalds of all choices? Well, we try fast foods in different countries as they usually introduce some local flavours. I had McPork - nothing to rave about, just a pork patty sandwiched between the bun and some greens. Hubby opted for the sinful Mega Tomato that came with 3 beef patties, tomato, bacon, cheese and bits of greens. Yes, he was hungry.
There was still time before our bus (Shinki or Hankyu bus from Sannomiya Station) to Arima Onsen, so we made our way to Kobe Chinatown (Nankin-machi) area to take a look. There were long queues for pork buns and steamed dim sums. Personally I'm not used to Chinese food in Japan. But chinese food seems to be quite popular there.
Took the bus from Kobe to Arima Onsen at the stipulated timing. We were rather amused as 99% of the passengers were Japanese Ojii-san and Obaa-san. One uncle chatted with us as he was curious. He told us that Arima Onsen has become rather commercialised and touristy.
Upon arrival, we searched for our ryokan - Hyoe Koyokaku, a large hot spring hotel. Not difficult to find since Arima town is quite small and dotted with 20 odd ryokans. After checking in, we were ushered to our room on the 14th level and were totally floored by the size of the room as well as the view. The room can easily accommodate 6 to 8 people. This must be the biggest and best room we stayed in Japan so far - in terms of price, view and space. It was so nice of the staff to offer us such a nice room (considering the price plan we opted was of the lower category).

After some tea and snacks, we decided to explore the streets of Arima Onsen first. Here we saw locals soaking in the foot bath available free. Arima Onsen is actually famous for two kinds of springs - "Kinsen" 金泉 where the water is coloured yellow-brown from its iron and salt (smells like rusty water) and "Ginsen" 銀泉 which contain radium and carnonate and the water is colourless.

One of Arima's traditional folkcraft and souvenir is the Arima Writing Brush 人形筆. When you lift the writing brush, a doll’s head pops up. Bright coloured threads were wrapped around the exterior of the holder to make beautiful patterns.
We met this friendly granny who told us that she is the original maker of Arima Writing Brush and the one and only in Japan still making it by hand. And she is already 85 years old!
As the sky turned dark, we headed back to the ryokan and decided it was time to go for a hot dip! There were 3 public baths in Hyoe; we decided to visit Ichinoyu and Ninoyu first. In the evening, Ichinoyu was opened for female and Ninoyu for men; both would switch over in the morning. There were some ladies in the onsen so I didn't take any photos.

Time for dinner! Our price plan was the Sumibiyakikaiseki (set of charcoal grilled dishes) served in a private dining room in one of the dining halls.

Our menu. Look at how elaborate the courses were. Well, will let the photos do the talking here.

All the dishes were so fresh and delicious and we couldn't stop eating though we were rather full. By the end of the dinner course, we were totally stuffed! Onaka ga ippai! おなかがいっぱい!
When we got back to our room, the futon bedding were already laid for us. We love to snug in the warmth of the futon during winter! Fell asleep in no time...

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