Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Kokuya Ryokan - Yudanaka-Shibu Onsen

From one luxury ryokan to another luxury ryokan. This time we're staying at Kokuya Ryokan in Yudanaka-Shibu Onsen. This will be the second time we've stayed at Kokuya. When we stayed there back in 2010 we'd been looking for ryokans with the great food and private onsen experience. We'd short listed a couple but the thing that swung it for us in the end was the review by Billy Law on his A Table For Two blog. Billy Law is now famous for having been on Masterchef Australia but back then he was a reasonably popular food blogger. It was his description of the food at Kokuya made us book. Of course now that we were back in Shibu Onsen we'd try and see if lightning could strike twice.

Like our visit 3 years ago we got a room with private onsen on the balcony. The first time we stayed at Kokuya we had room Sagano. It is an average sized room but has a large balcony and one of the larger hot tubs. This time we stayed in Ayame. A larger room but a smaller balcony and a slightly smaller tub than Sagano. Just enough room for the three of us though. There's also a couple of reservable onsens in the ryokan for all guests that we thought we'd try this time as well - just for a bit of hot water variety. The downside of the upside of having a private onsen on your balcony is the shower is outside too. A bit chilly in the middle of Winter when you're rinsing off before and after soaking in the tub. Dead set though, when you're sitting in the tub there could be blizzard and you'd be toasty. There's also a TV behind a glass screen outside with the tub just in case you get bored chillin' in the tub and looking at the stars.
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After the check-in ceremony of green tea and snacks under the heated table blanket we dressed in the supplied yukata and made ready for dinner. Oh yeah, it was a feast. Again. Oh the humanity. I don't know how I lose weight travelling because these dinners put the sump in sumptuous, the X in glorious excess and the F in feast. 12 or 13 courses, but who's counting? There's tofu, meat, fish, crab, rice, soups, assorted appetisers and dessert. Dinner and breakfast are taken in private rooms in the dining room downstairs. The first time we stayed it was some of the finest dining we've ever had. It wasn't quite up to the same standard this time but it was on a par with Michelin starred restaurants we've eaten at. Every course, and there were many courses, was delicious. I recommend the local cloudy Snow Monkey sake with your meal too.
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No special kid's meal for Georgia this time but she was more than happy sharing ours. If there is raw fish she eat it hand over fist. Bring noodles to the party, and we had soba, she will happily slurp away. You don't always need special kid's meals. With a bit of luck they'll try almost anything before spitting it out with a resounding "YUCK"! Actually it wasn't quite true that there was no kids meal. She did get rice with a packet of savoury powdery flakey stuff that kids love to sprinkle over their rice. Japanese kids at least. I can't recall seeing anything like it in the supermarkets at home. Reason #247 for moving to Japan.

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After dinner we had an early night and went to sleep. Ha! As if. Did I mention we had a hot tub onsen rotenburo thingy on the balcony? No, after dinner it was time to nude up and soak in the the tub.

We booked direct with Kokuya. The link to their English language website is here.

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