Yagyunosho (柳生の庄), Izu
Besides eating in Japan, going on onsen trip is another event i always enjoy. I have a couple of friends coming to Tokyo for fun in the second half of December, and we went on three onsen trips in one week - yes, in one week. Sounds a bit crazy but we really love onsen.
The last impressive onsen trip happened two years ago in Hakone, my mom and i went there in May and stayed in a not-that-famous ryokan but still a upscale one called Yama-no-chaya (山の茶屋) . Now Hakone is much more famous for tourists, thus we decided to go somewhere else this time. The first place came up my mind is Izu (伊豆), because of the famous Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata (川端 康成). I did a lot of research and decided to go Shuzenji, actually for a top ryokan called Asaba, but unfortunately fully booked. Then we picked 柳生の庄 Yagyu-no-sho and an alternative. It is much better than we expected, and to be honest i'm more satisfied with Yagyu-no-sho compare to Yama-no-chaya.
Following will be a full review of the ryokan, include the interior, Kaiseki dinner, traditional Japanese breakfast, and a little bit about its public (open-air) onsen and some nice tourist attractions around.
The best way to get there from Tokyo is to take the train. We departed from Tokyo Station and there are two different ways to get to Shuzenji: first, there are local trains directly from Tokyo Station to Shuzenji, cheaper (around 3,000 JPY) than Shinkansen but not very frequent. Thus we decided to take Shinkasen and transfer once, which is actually faster and more flexible ( around 5,500 JPY for reserved seat, one way).From Shuzenji station to the ryokan, we got a taxi. Don't know about other transportation.
Check in time is 2pm and check out at 11am. Dinner time you can choose from 5:30, 6:00 or 6:30.
We arrived around 3pm, and dinner at 6pm because we want to enjoy onsen in the evening as well.
Once we got off the taxi, the 'concierge' checked our name and reservation, took our luggage, and lead us to our room on the second floor. There's no lobby nor cashier, but everything runs very smoothly and gives us a feeling of home, and being treated of course.
As soon as we settled down, our private butler bring in the welcome dessert and matcha. The matcha was freshly whisked, strong and bitter but balanced well with the red bean dessert.
After the afternoon tea, we changed our shirts and went to the public open-air onsen before dinner time.
= Onsen =
As most of the onsen in Japan, there's a in-house onsen, which warms you up thus you can get ready for the open-air onsen in winter like this. It was exactly winter solstice that day, quite Interesting to know that Japanese put yuzu in the hot spring during winter solstice. They also serves straw hats for some reason, very interesting though. Every midnight, the male and female onsen exchanges.
= Dinner =
After a 30-min onsen, we went back to our room and the server has already there. Yeah, dinner time.
= Breakfast =
We chose 8:30 for breakfast when we check in. Our butler woke up at 8:00 am and cleaned up the beadings. We were treated with a cup of tea (savory) and sour plum to wake up our palate.
As a traditonal, the first thing we had was freshly cooked vegetable miso soup.
Everything was ready when we arrive at the table. Look at this holly spread, i am already full.
We were seriously stuffed, counln't move. Going on a onsen trip is really 'tired' for my stomach compare to a vacation by the beach. But really satisfying, every different ryokan gives a different feeling. Before check out at 11am, we went to the public bath again. After check out, we took a walk at the local attraction - bamboo forest. It is just 5 minutes walk from where we stay. A very pleasant onsen experience.