The Obligatory (and amazing) Ryokan Stay

I went for a one-night stay at the ryokan Tsurunoyu Onsen, in Nyuto onsen village, which is famous for its natural hotsprings and in particular, its mixed-sex bath. As I’m a last minute traveler with poor planning skills, I’d like to take a brief moment to give a shoutout to Travel Arrange Japan, because while they looked like a semi-sketchy website with very few reviews to verify their legitimacy, the folks there helped me book a stay at the very popular Tsurunoyu! They also contacted the onsen to help me arrange the shuttle from the closest bust stop to the onsen, and were very available on email. So Travel Arrange Japan is a legit business, people!

Now — onto my ryokan stay in Nyuto onsen village.

Nyuto translates into “nipple” because the onsen village is nestled in a part of the mountains by a beautiful lake which apparently looks like a nipple. I don’t know; getting to Tsurunoyu involved taking a train, then a public bus, then a shuttle which picked me up from the bus stop along with three others on their way to Tsurunoyu at the same time as me.

Japanese ryokan are traditional inns where people typically spend a night or so basically just lounging around, but traditionally. The general ryokan schedule involves soaking in hot springs a lot, having a nice meal served in your room, and then pushing aside the room’s sparse furniture to lay your futon out on the tatami mats to go to sleep.

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The Horse Trek

(Alena on “training wheels,” featuring Ocean, Maverick and The Cow.)The highlight of mine and Alena’s time in Mongolia together came after our Mongolian Olle adventure: we went on a three day horse trek.

The horse trek began with Alena heading off to Stepperiders camp, to spend Thursday evening in a ger there. I stayed in UB to get some last minute work done, and joined her in the morning.

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Oh, deer!

The day after I visited the Peace Park, I took a train and a ferry to the island of Miyajima, which is famous for its “Floating Torii.” The large torii gate of a temple on Miyajima is set in the sand, so at high tide, it stands in the water. (At low tide, it stands on a bar of sand is distinctly less impressive. Be sure to check the tides if you want to go.)

I did not check the tides, and arrived earlier in mid-morning with hours to go until the mid-afternoon’s higher tides.

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Kyoto and its temples

On my second day in Kyoto, the friendly but stickler-for-the-rules man at the Musubi-an Arashiyama guesthouse helped me make a pot of coffee, and I bummed around the hostel in the morning doing a bit of work in the quiet.

In the afternoon, I snacked my way through the Nishiki market, nomming on free samples of all sorts of pickled things. My favorite thing that I ate was a fried ball of dough filled with curry, onions and potato. After the Nishiki market, I made my way to the International Manga Museum (which was filled with a lot of Japanese people filling the hallways and open spaces reading manga), and then to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is famous for its hundreds of torii gates, which are large gates that mark the entrance to, or are just positioned inside of shrines.

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My undying love for onsen

I flew to Osaka from Shanghai on Thursday, August 10th.

In Japan, a convenient tool for foreigners is the Japan Rail Pass, different versions of which are basically a pass for all the Japan Rail trains, metros, etc. that go throughout Japan. When you get to Japan you can buy some of the regional passes, like the three-day Japan West pass or the Japan East pass, but if you want an all-Japan pass, you have to buy it outside of the country, and the bring your voucher to a JR station and exchange it for the pass. While in Shanghai (part of the reason why I hung around there for about a week), I ordered a JR pass and had the voucher express-shipped to my hostel in Osaka. It’s possible to buy a 7, 14, or 21 JR pass. I got the 21-day JR pass, which pretty much decided for me how long I was going to spend in Japan. (Sometimes you just gotta let the little things make decisions for you…)

After a quiet evening in Osaka, I got up early the next morning to get my JR pass and take a shinkansen (high-speed train) to Kyoto, which would be my first big stop in Japan.

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