Date of Travel: 14/02/2012
It was only 6:30am but we were all packed and ready to go as we wanted to reach Kurokawa by 2pm. Luckily we had already reserved train tickets the night before, so that was one last thing to worry about. We quickly hopped on a tram to Nagasaki JR Station, bought breakfast, caught a train to Shin-Tosu, transferred over to the first Shinakansen of our trip to Kumamoto, and finally transferred to yet another train to reach Aso station.
As we wanted to make damn sure we did not miss the bus to Kurokawa, we arrived at Aso station with quite a lot of time to kill. While waiting, we decided to have some lunch at the station. At the time, it was raining quite a lot outside. Though the weather was not as bad as the day before, we were worried that the heavy rain could ruin our experience at Kurokawa. When the bus came, we tried to board it, but the bus conductor animatedly told us off as the bus was on a break for a few minutes. Was an interesting experience…
When we arrived at Kurokawa, the rain was a bit heavier than before. However, some staff from Yamamizuki Ryokan were present with umbrellas and a minivan to pick us up! Now that is service ladies and gentlemen! When we arrived at the Ryokan, they distributed umbrellas to all their guests, and helped bring our luggage to the reception area. After filling out the required forms, we were shown to our “room”. This “room” was larger than I had imagined. It featured a spacious tatami mat room, a smaller tatami room with a view of the forest at the back (we stored our luggage here), a wooden hallway with a couch, tv, massage chair, and a toilet at the back. A friendly staff in a kimono came in shortly after to make tea and served us a red bean jelly cake for a snack. Despite the hectic travel schedule from this morning, the atmosphere of this inn really made us feel refreshed.
The weather cleared up shortly after, and we debated what we wanted to do. The original plan was to have a walk around town, but as it was quite a walk into town, and that we felt so relaxed at the ryokan, we decided to hit the outdoor onsen instead early instead. While heading down to the onsen, we had a wander around the ryokan. The ryokan itself was beautiful. Its architecture was Japanese style, and its décor reminded me of exhibits you would see in museums. We didn’t walk around the garden as it was still raining lightly, but we could see that it was also beautiful. We hit the outdoor onsen shortly after. It was awkward initially, as it was the first time we had been to an onsen on this trip, but we got used to it pretty quickly. We tried the indoor bath first, but it was too hot and stuffy in the room so we went out to the outdoor one. The bath was located right next to a river, and the cool air mixed with the warm water made it really refreshing. We spent a good hour in a bath just relaxing. Sorry ladies – no photos 😛
After the bath, we wore the yukatas which were provided by the staff, and spent some additional time relaxing. We stopped by the ryokan’s gift shop to buy some souvenirs and snacks. We headed downstairs for dinner shortly after.
Dinner itself was amazing. It was almost a work of art! It featured about 11 different dishes, all of which were beautifully presented. For one of the dishes, we were given the option of either steak or fugu (blowfish). While the fugu was most likely prepared properly, we didn’t want to take the chance (at least this early in the trip) and went for steak instead. We are such wimps, but meh! After the steak course, we thought only desert was left. Man, were we wrong. The waitress whipped out a large clay pot and prepared nabe! Despite each dish being quite small, we were very full by the end of it all.
When we arrived back in our rooms, we found that some fairies (staff) had magically prepared the futons for us. Before going to sleep however, we decided to go have a look to see if the bath was still open. Unfortunately, it was currently being cleaned. However, I asked the staff if we could go take some photos of the bath area since it is currently being cleaned, and they said it was okay. So photos galore!
After taking photos of the bath, we explored parts of the ryokan further. We returned to our room shortly after, where we shared a Yuzu pudding desert I had bought earlier in the day. This was the most relaxing yet fun day of the trip thus far, and was a much needed rest with us being only about a third of the way through the trip!
Tram from Kokaidomae Station to Nagasaki JR Station – 120 yen
Bus from Aso to Kurokawa – 960
JR Trains covered by JR National Pass
Yamamizuki Ryokan – 16,950 yen
Breakfast from convenience store at Nagasaki JR Station – 390 yen [nikuman and sandwich]
Lunch at Aso station – 750 yen [Champon]
Dinner provided by Ryokan
N/A ~all free~ [well…kind of anyway…onsen was included with the accommodation fee]
Souvenir from Yamamizuki – 900 yen [cellphone strap and yuzu pudding]
TOTAL (cost for whole trip in brackets)
20,070 yen (378,475 yen total)
Total Cost of Kyushu Leg excluding Airfares and JR Pass
52,432 yen (10,487 yen per day)