When we decided on going to Kurokawa Onsen, an onsen town located in Kumamoto, we were overwhelmed with the choices of ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) available. There were almost 30 ryokans, each one attractive in their own way. How were we to choose just one?!
We eventually decided on Kono-yu こうの湯 because:
- Onsen – It had a private onsen!!!
- Food – We wanted a lavish spread for meals, and the pictures seem to suggest Kono-yu might meet our expectations
- Price – While not cheap, the price was justifiable for the value we were getting (FYI we paid 24,000 yen each for one night)
Arriving at the ryokan, there were staff to usher us from the car to the building, while 2 went to retrieve our baggage from the trunk, and another took care of our car.
We were then guided to our room:
The staff proceeded to introduce and explain the ryokan, the town, etc. to us. He was Japanese, but could speak Mandarin, although a little haltingly, so I told him to use Japanese instead. But it’s definitely convenient for people who can’t speak Japanese!
Then he asked us to select a scent for the incense to scent the room. It felt so pampering sniffing different bottles to choose what we wanted! I know you’re all “WHAT? Pampered??? It’s just an inconsequential, silly incense stick!” But don’t you see? The fact that we can even make decisions about such tiny details shows the level of luxury and service!
And here’s the star of our room!
See two pipes above? One is for the hot spring water, and the other for cold water so that you can adjust the temperature to your liking!
The cupboard is stocked with yukata and a handy pouch (with an inner plastic so it’ll be waterproof – so clever!) for onsen-hopping!
We wore the yukata to the onsen and then wore it to dinner!
As it was winter, they provided coats as well, but they were ridiculously huge on us:
But definitely very warm and soft to snuggle in :D
Then it was dinner. Oh gosh, the dinner.
First, a photo in the dining area, which only served us and another couple. I think it’s so that they can focus on properly serving us :)
This was our menu:
I didn’t take photos of everything because I sometimes forgot and just dug in lol. But here’s what I did remember to take:
A lot of the ingredients are sourced from Kumamoto prefecture itself, which is something I really like because I got to taste a lot of the local delicacies :)
Like this basashi aka horse sashimi:
I never thought I would eat horse because I’m not an adventurous eater (really picky, in fact), but hey, since I’m in Kumamoto and don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, right?
The pure white piece is called koune and is taken from below the mane. It’s the rarest part and supposedly extremely rich in collagen but it’s also the part I like the least cause it was so tough! Granted, I probably won’t eat basashi again because I don’t really enjoy it. Give me my seafood sashimi any day!
Usually good beef is called 和牛 wagyu, but this beef here for shabu shabu is called 和王 waou or loosely translated to “King of Japanese beef”. KING! Those are big shoes to fill!
Neither of us could finish our food because there was just too much! It’s not the most delicious meal I had in my life because some were hits and some were misses (like that fish by itself) but it might be due more to my picky palette. Overall, it’s sufficiently tasty though!
We returned to our room to find that our beds were laid out for us, as per attentive ryokan style. It’s really not fun to have to struggle with heavy futons when you’re bloated with food.
But it’s too early for sleep! We’re in onsen town, so it wouldn’t do if we didn’t take at least 3 baths a day!
Something embarrassing to confess: We visited 3 other ryokans’ onsens on the onsen-hopping pass, but didn’t visit our own ryokan’s onsens!
How did it happen? We actually went to the onsen area, peeked in and didn’t see any place to bathe (you’re supposed to shower before entering the onsen). We were like “HUH? No need to bathe? What’s going on?” And we didn’t feel like going back to our room, bathe, and then trudge back in the cold so we were “Actually it’s ok. We have our own onsen. It’s probably the same!”
NO. It’s not the same. I found out later (when I returned home -_-) that one of the onsens in our ryokan is a standing one! And it’s the deepest one in Kurokawa Onsen town!
Oh well. At least we visited another standing onsen or else I’d be a lot more frustrated! Oh, and we also confirmed that there is no place to bathe in our ryokan’s onsen. You’re just supposed to splash off with water using a small scoop.
Morning came and of course, it’s… ONSEN TIME!!!
It was a rainy morning, but nothing comes between us and our bath!
Then it was time for breakfast! This really is the life! The fat life, that is lol.
Do not be mistaken. The above is only ONE of the dishes.
THIS is the full meal:
I liked breakfast a lot more than dinner actually! Breakfast was seriously delicious. I stuffed myself to breaking point, and then some.
This chicken… something… was gently heated and was so absolutely heavenly with rice:
Now and then, I will still think back to this chicken thing and the seaweed thing above. Yeah, very descriptive names, I know. But details aside, they were really delicious!
Our stay at Kono-yu came too quickly to an end :( It was an extremely relaxing and pampering stay though! Service, food, and the room were all good! I might have this make a luxury ryokan onsen stay an annual event ;)
A last anecdote to share: This was the slip of paper we received that indicates our meal times and location, etc.
We looked at it and thought, “Well, that’s a creative way to spell my name…” (which is Sharene)
Later, while walking back to our room, we realized Shara wasn’t my name spelled wrongly, but…
They must have thought it would be funny to place us in that room… if it wasn’t deliberate, it’s certainly a very interesting coincidence!
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