Monday, 22 August 2016

Travel: Staying in a Traditional Japanese Inn in Kanazawa, Japan

After a lovely overnight stay in Takayama, we headed northwest out of the Gifu Prefecture in to the Ishikawa Prefecture. We visited the absolutely stunning and historic city of Kanazawa. Kanazawa is famous for its preserved streets from the Edo period and the large castle (and its gardens) that sits in the very centre of the city.
Visiting Kanazawa, Japan
As Kanazawa is known for being full of history, we decided this would be the perfect place to try out a tradition Japanese inn, also known as a ryokan. I was a little nervous about this as I usually like the anonymity you can have when staying in a hotel - you can go undetected and nobody cares what you get up to. Ryokans are usually owned by a family and as Japanese people are so polite and friendly, they really want to make sure you have a great stay so tend to be very attentive. As it turns out, I had no reason to be nervous about this as the family were so lovely despite speaking very little English (although their English was better than our Japanese).
Kanazawa, Japan

Me, stood on one of the old streets in the Higashi Chaya geisha district
Kanazawa, Japan
The slippers we had to wear in the ryokan
We stayed in Kanazawa for two nights, but struggled to find accommodation for the two nights. We ended up staying at the Nakayasu Ryokan for one night, and Minshuku Ginmatsu for the other night. They were very close to each other, so it was no bother! We opted for the traditional Japanese rooms each time, but decided against ordering the traditional Japanese food (that would come later in the trip). Upon arrival at both of the ryokans, we were greeted by lovely Japanese women who showed us where to put our shoes and which slippers to change in to. Remember, you can't wear your own shoes inside Japanese buildings - they offer slippers to wear instead. These lovely women then carried our VERY heavy backpacks up stairs in to our rooms - I felt so bad but they wouldn't let us carry them at all. It was also very awkward walking to our rooms. They insisted on following us but as Bob has size 10 feet and the slippers only went up to around a size 6, every time he lifted his foot up to the next step the slippers would fall off his feet - meaning the short trip took twice as long and meant the very small women had to hold our bags for longer!
Kanazawa, Japan
Kanazawa, Japan
A totally natural, not staged at all photo of me and Bob drinking our green tea

When we got to our rooms, I was a little surprised at just how basic they were - there weren't even any beds! It was a plain room with tatami mat floor, a little table and two leg-less chairs. There was a kettle and some green tea for a refreshment. As it turns out, the beds are rolled up and hidden away during the day and are brought out at night time before bed. A little bit like a turn down service. The bed consisted of a very thin mattress, a pillow and a duvet cover. It's quite comfortable at first, but I can confirm after two nights I was looking forward to a proper mattress.
Kanazawa, Japan

The highlights of staying in a ryokan were hands down: the traditional Japanese outfit and the traditional Japanese bath. The two go hand in hand. The Japanese outfit is essentially a big dressing gown with a patterned belt, you wear it when in your room and when visiting the Japanese baths. There is a really attractive photo of me demonstrating how to wear it. I had my underwear on underneath as I wasn't really sure of the etiquette. Do you go nude or not? If you were a man, you'd wear the belt on your hips whereas women wear it on their waist. You also get a pair of super sexy socks to wear. You know the kind with the gap between your big toe and the others, so you look like you have an actual camel toe? I brought them back with me and they are so funny! There is also a cute little jacket to wear, in case you decide to go out in public in this outfit.
Kanazawa, Japan
The Japanese baths are basically just a big spa room with a huge heated swimming pool in it. You have to go in naked, which scared me a bit but as this ryokan was so small I risked it and ended up being the only one in there. Yes, they're for separate genders so if you're with someone of the opposite sex you won't be able to go in together. Also, if you have tattoos you might not be able to go in as they're hugely frowned upon in Japan. I have a tiny one on my wrist and managed to get away with it. So, what do you do in a Japanese bath? Well first you have a shower to make sure you're clean before getting in the water. You wouldn't want to bathe in the same water as a smelly person so it's the same the other way. After you're showered, just get in the bath. It's heated water and you usually get a beautiful view of a Japanese garden to look at. They're very simple, but I found it so relaxing to just sit and chill in a huge bath. Plus the excitement of being naked in a public room added to the fun! I didn't get a photo of the Japanese bath, but a quick Google search will show you what I mean. 
Come back soon to hear about what we got up to in Kanazawa!

Read the rest of my Japan travel posts.

Rachael Amy 

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