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The little Jedi of Kinosaki Onsen

A long time ago in a land far, far away. That's what it felt like as we walked the streets of Kinosaki Onsen dressed in our yukatas, the clop-clop of wooden getas sounding in the air. In his robes Alex looked the spitting image of a young Jedi padawan, all that was missing was the lightsaber.

Incidently, Padawan is a district of Kuching in Malaysia.

The town was so far back in time that my 4G router couldn't get a signal, hence the lack of an update. Plus I was feeling a little under the weather.

There can be few better places to rest than Kinosaki Onsen. We dragged our luggage on the Midosuji subway to Umeda, then barely caught the Ltd Exp Hamakaze in time. An older Japanese train it lacked a food service or vending machines, leading to big issues.

Alex was hungry for breakfast. B and I had eaten slices of Kobe cheesecake for breakfast, but Alex didn't like it. As we raced past the huge Akashi bridge Alex was pleading for food and drink. The kind conductor, who had earlier given Alex some train stickers, suggested that we grab some food from the station kiosk at Himeji, where the train would pause for a few minutes.

Himeji Castle today - undergoing renovations

Sandwiches and a drink were purchased with time to spare and happiness was restored, followed by Alex falling asleep.

The countryside was pretty without being as spectacular as some of the previous days'. It was a pleasant ride through rural Japan.

Once we arrived at Kinosaki Onsen we were immediately greeted by red jacketed helpers from the tourist office and bustled across the road to their office to leave our luggage in their care for later delivery to our ryokan. Unlike some of our previous destinations nobody could complain about the tourism organisation at Kinosaki Onsen.

We were free then to take a leisurely walk up the road towards our ryokan and stop for lunch along the way. Firstly the omiyage shops caught our attention, all sorts of crackers and sweets to try. Lunch was tempura udon for Alex and I and crab and rice for B. 

The road now met the lazy and shallow willow-lined Otani stream. We crossed over one of the many stone bridges and bathed our feet in the footbath outside the closed (being a Wednesday) bath house Ichino-yu. Just up from that (we overshot and had to ask directions) was the Morizuya ryokan, staffed by the very friendly Takayuki-san.

We were shown to our beautiful olive and tan coloured tatami floored room with its pretty view of a stone lantern and sloped garden outside. Alex even discovered that the toilet had an automatic lid and flush, which thrilled him no end. Three yukatas were waiting for us, for this is what the Japanese wear when traipsing around an onsen town. Then the house baths were pointed out (we never used them) and we were taken upstairs for B to pick out her choice of colourful yukata. Except that objective was almost ignored when Alex saw what else lay inside the room.

A huge network of blue Plarail train tracks and a table full of trains. Similarly with Tomy cars. Duplo and baby toys also lay around the room. At the back, a large number of plastic model fighter aircraft and military vehicles were dominated by model skyscrapers and towers, including the incredibly tall Burj.

No time to play now. We had some serious bathing to do. We dressed in our yukatas, which consisted of a summer robe, an outer warm robe, ribbon belt to hold things together and an over jacket. I had, with some foresight, brought my own pair of thongs (flip-flops if you aren't Australian) to wear around town rather than struggle with wooden slippers too small for me.

Alex amazingly wore a tiny pair of wooden sandals. He was excited about the baths.

First was Goshono-yu, the newest bathhouse but with an exterior that suggested age. At the ryokan we were given lanyards with a barcode, which allows entry into seven of the bath houses after scanning near the doors. Alex followed B to the female baths, while I joined the naked men in the other bath. There are lockers for your stuff, you strip and place your robes in there, then enter the bathroom. First you sit down on a stool in front of a tap and thoroughly wash yourself. Soap and shampoo provided.

I tried the indoor bath first - very hot! Then the outdoor bath, which was very pretty and at least allowed the upper body to cool while gazing at the waterfall outside.

The next bath house, Kouno-yu, was quite a walk away, near the cable car entrance. It too had both an indoor and outdoor bath and this time Alex was with me. The outdoor bath looked up towards the bamboo hills.

We now had to rush back for the provided dinner, though we almost bought eggs to boil in the hot water, but had to pass as it would take too long.

Back at the ryokan we sat around the low table as dish upon dish was placed in front of us. Delicious grilled Tajimi beef, sushi, half a crab each, a soymilk stew of the succulent beef, pickles, chawan mushi savoury custard, potted and pastry topped pumpkin soup, tempura and finally a green tea pudding with rice balls, yam and mandarin jelly.

We had to wave away the rice. We were full to bursting point.

Then we acceded to Alex's pleas and took him up to the games room, where he played until the 9 pm closing time. I then went out to wander alone through the town. Pink lanterns hanging below the cherry trees gave the route on the upper part of the stream a magical air, while lower down the stream the stone bridges were lit by white lanterns. I had a milky soft-serve ice cream in one still-open venue playing music from Miyazaki's Spirited Away in the background. It was perfect for the scene.

On my return I convinced B and Alex to have one more bath before bedtime, just to see the lights. So we walked down to the smallest bath house, Yanagi-yu, still busy at the late hour.

Then we curled up on our futons on the floor for a wonderful sleep.


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