About 2 weeks ago, it was my first time to Kyoto and also the first time that I’ll be staying at a Japanese ryokan. In usual times, I would have turned down invitations to any sort of hotsprings, whether it be a Korean jjimjilbang, Turkish hammam or the Japanese onsen, but this time, we’d paid more than S$1000 for ONE night’s stay at Yumotokan onsen ryokan hotel; I guess there’s no better time and place than now to try the authentic Japanese onsen experience, right?
My first onsen experience will be in Kyoto
After checking in and going gaga over the look of our traditional Japanese-style ryokan room, I quickly changed into the yukata prepared by the ryokan. Alone, I was nervous and excited to make my way to the first pool I was gonna try.
I entered the changing area to see two naked elderly ladies who’d just finished their soak at the indoor onsen and were simply relaxing at the area. They didn’t look too embarrassed, but I still kept my gaze averted and continued my way. Discreetly, I removed my yukata and put it into an empty basket together with my towel, and went to the shower area. After a wash of my body, I gingerly walked to the onsen pool. For it being my first time at an onsen, thankfully, there wasn’t anyone inside! The water was very hot though so I very slowly – though hoping I could be as swift as I can in case someone comes along – got in.
I died and went to onsen heaven.
It felt soooooooooo good!
It was incredible, the water relaxed me so much! In no time at all, I was so happy to be in my own world. Who cares that I was fully nekkid?!? While inside the water, I was beginning to set resolutions to encourage every woman I know to try a Japanese onsen at least once in their life. Such a liberating experience! What took me so long to discover this?!? It’s unbelievable.
Afterwards, I moved upstairs to an outdoor onsen. It was actually raining, but the roof sheltered me, while night began to fall. It must have been at least 10-12 degrees that evening, but I didn’t feel the least bit cold being in the hot pool.
Afterwards, I went back to my ryokan room for a short break, determined to convince my sister to try a soak as she hadn’t been keen earlier. She finally agreed! However, being Asian sisters, we don’t really wish to see each other naked. So we made promises that we won’t peep at each other, lol.
To the onsen again that day
For my second soak, this time, I made sure to stay long enough to feel that I was sweating (about 10-20 minutes). My sis took a long time to scrub herself clean before entering the onsen pool, while I was getting delirious and ACTUALLY HAPPILY FLOATED AROUND inside the empty pool (Please don’t do that! You shouldn’t make big movements inside an onsen pool, but I had no idea!). I had the whole pool to myself before my sister finally came over.
By the time I left the onsen,
my body felt significantly heavier than before.
I could barely stay alert mentally. It was as if I had eaten medicine that makes one drowsy and lethargic. What is this sorcery! Has the water been drugged?!? I hadn’t known at that time, but this reaction was because the muscles were feeling relaxed. I could finally see why the Japanese are so committed to making onsen a part of their lifestyle.
It was dinner-time soon and my family dissuaded me from going to soak again, after a very full kaiseki dinner at the hotel restaurant. Damn.
Watching the sunrise while soaking in an onsen
The next morning, I got up at 6.30am to take a dip again, this time, at a different pool. Yumotokan ryokan onsen hotel alternates genders for the pools daily, so everyone gets a chance at trying different onsens available at the hotel.
It was a stunning experience watching the sun rise over Lake Biwa – the largest freshwater lake in Japan. This was the view I had (not my actual photo because no photography is allowed), except the entire atmosphere was bathed in the golden glow of the morning sun. A breeze was blowing and I watched the steam drift past above the water surface, as fresh hot water kept filling the onsen. Sheer bliss. Wished I could take a video to document it.
Add an onsen activity to my itinerary whenever I visit Japan, please!
Onsen manners as advised by the ryokan:
Have you tried the Japanese hotsprings before? How was your first onsen experience?
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Visited: Dec 2015
Yumotokan Onsen Hotel
Address: 520-0102 Shiga, Otsu, Noka 2-30-7, Japan
Useful links: Yumotokan website • Yumotokan on TripAdvisor • Book Yumotokan on Bookings.com –>
Credits: Photo of onsen pool from Booking.com.Panoramic view of onsen is via Google Maps
I stayed as a paying guest. All opinions are my own, as always.
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