It was a rainy day in Kyoto. We braved the rain, dragged our bags, and headed over to the car rental office to pick up our Subaru for the next leg of our trip. The plan was to head over to Kinosaki, but not before stopping by Amanohashidate on the way. We managed to find a Starbucks with drive-thru on the way for Aaron (the driver) to get his morning coffee fix. Apparently this is not very common in Japan, so lucky us!
Biking in the Rain
Amanohashidate is a small town, known for its long sandbar. It apparently is one of the top 3 scenic views in Japan. It was raining a bit but we still really wanted to rent bikes to ride across the sandbar over to the cable car/chair-lift up the mountain. We had hoped to ride the chair-lifts, unfortunately, the rain has made it unsafe to operate. By the time we were at the top, it was pouring rain and we quickly took obligatory photos upside down with our heads between our legs to see the sandbar forming a “bridge [to] heaven”1, which is what Amanohashidate roughly translate to. We had just missed the cable car down and the next one arrives in 15 minutes, so we wasted no time and had some fried fish cake sticks as well as crab cream croquette. They were both very fresh and tasty. There is something about the light, airy texture of fried foods in Japan that is truly addictive.
We rushed to the cable car at the last minute and sped-walked over to our bikes to rush back to our rental place before our rental is up. After getting completely drenched as it was now raining heavily, we headed over to the train station to dry up a bit before getting distracted by a small snack stand. All the elderly ladies seem to be buying the nikuman (meat buns) at this one shop, so we knew we had to try. We ordered the last one on display and took a big bite into this pillowy, fluffy bun filled with juicy pork with lots of umami-flavours! It was so nice to enjoy this after a cold, wet bike ride. After a satisfying snack, we were on the road again towards Kinosaki.
Eat Sushi, Win Toys
For lunch, we stopped by Kura Sushi for some conveyor belt sushi with an extra incentive where you can win toys as you eat. We sat down and immediately, my eyes lit up with all the sushi going around on the conveyor belt. The selection was somewhat limited but no worries as there is a tablet for you to order whatever items you want and these will be delivered to you via another conveyor system. Most items here are 100 yen for 2 pieces which was really economical. We had way too much sushi here but my favourite would have to be the salmon toro (tuna belly), tuna toro (tuna belly) and the anago (salt-water eel). I also had the fusion spaghetti ramen carbonara, which was super rich and creamy, especially when topped with a soft-poached egg. Now for the game: once you finished 5 plates of sushi, you can insert the plates into a machine and have the opportunity to win a toy. I was fortunate enough to win a toy on my first try! It was a Dragon Ball keychain in a plastic Dragon Ball! Fun!
After possibly over doing it in terms of sushi, we head over to Kinosaki to check-in to our ryokan, Mikuniya, right in the heart of Kinosaki town. I was impressed by the politeness and efficiency of the staff at this ryokan. We were immediately showed to our rooms and served some green tea and sweets. We wasted no time to get changed into yukatas (summer kimonos) to explore the onsens (Japanese hot springs) in town. Just like my last trip, I again wasn’t planning to go into the onsens because of the discomfort with being completely naked. However, once I arrived in a town which is known for its onsens, I cannot give up on this opportunity. This town has 7 public onsens in total and they were all within walking distance. Aaron and I decided to check out the Ichino-yu, with an outdoor “cave” onsen, as well as its scalding indoor bath. Apparently its waters are said to bring “good fortune for safety while traveling”2, so I guess that this is quite fitting. Because we stayed at a local ryokan, we have a pass to enter any of the 7 baths for free. Otherwise, you can purchase a day pass for 1200 yen. Once again, the experience can initially be quite daunting, as you walk into a gender-specific change room with a bunch of naked strangers. I quickly whipped out my towel in front of me and wandered into the bath part of the onsen. After a quick shower, I entered the outdoor “cave” part of the onsen, which was quite lovely. The indoor part was definitely a little too hot for me. In fact, I quite enjoyed having the cold winter evening breeze on my face while soaking in a nice hot bath, so I spent most of my time outside. After the lovely bathing experience, I went upstairs to the lounge to join Aaron for a post-onsen milk from a vending machine before heading back. Outside this onsen is a simple public foot bath that we dipped our feet in for a bit before returning to the ryokan for dinner.
Kani (Crab) for Days
By the time we returned, they have already set up our crab kaiseiki in our private dining hall. (Usually it is set up on your room, but there were 4 of us, so there wouldn’t be enough space for all the food. The feast consisted of crab cooked in as many ways as you can imagine. For starters, there is a crab soup with various veggies and fish cakes. Then there is crab sashimi. In the center of table is a steamed crab with it’s meat nicely exposed for ease of eating. Once the fire has extinguished, it is time to open up the nabe (pot) for some grilled crab. If that is not enough, have no fear because they will return with some crab tempura as well as switch up your nabe for some boiled crab with some crab butter-flavoured tofu. Wondering about beverages? Why don’t you try some crab beer to go along with your meal? We didn’t realize this as we were feasting but if you were to leave and reenter the dining room, all you would smell is a strong scent of crab. It was unbelievable.
Hot Baths Make Me Sleepy
After such a crab-filled meal, Aaron and I decided to check out the private bath at the ryokan, while our travel buddies tried some more onsens. They were very efficient and in total they tried Goshono-yu, Ichino-yu, and Mandara-yu and they enjoyed Goshono-yu the most for having the best water temperature. They also said that although Mandara-yu is unique for its personal-sized tubs, that is really all it has (in addition to the usual indoor bath).
We were all very relaxed from a full day of biking adventure, lots and lots crab and finishing with endless soaks in hot baths. This led to us all sleep very well tonight.