Walking Kinosaki and cooking an onsen tamago

One of the charms of Kinosaki is transporting yourself back in time by walking the town in your yukata and geta. Most hotels will provide guests with a full ensemble and it's pretty cool to see everybody walk the streets in their traditional wardrobe. Of course, when in Rome...

The buildings feel like they are from a different era so there is definitely a tourist town kind of feel to it. But Kinosaki is also a working town, as well, where locals go about their daily business like shopping for groceries. It's pretty cool how both tourists and locals co-exist and navigate through the same streets together. We walked up and down the main road which was divided by the Otani River, making occasional pit stops to take a foot bath, grab a coffee and donuts in a modern cafe, and even cook some soft boiled eggs in the hot spring waters.

Near where we cooked our eggs was an old temple where the statues are "dressed up" in winter attire to keep them warm. A nice intersection of reverence and whimsy.

Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei and their buffet breakfast

Breakfast was served in a dining hall for both of our days at the Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei. There was a ton of variety in what was available and it was all quite good. I loved all the small bites you could choose from including Tajima beef croquettes, fresh okra, oden, and perfectly cooked onsen tamago.

The hotel itself is beautiful and grand. It's like something I would imagine from the 50's or 60's. Very mid-century modern which still holds up today. The highlight is an expansive window wall that overlooks a picturesque garden.

Of course this place is known for their hot spring baths. In addition to their large public baths (separated for men and women, with an inside and outside area for each), they have private spas which you can book for an additional fee. We were lucky and reserved while they had a special deal which gave us one free session in one of their private spas. We opted for the Gingetsu (Japanese Style) which had a rock sauna room. There was even a lounge area where we could just chill after getting out of the bath with a free bottle of bubbly. An amazing onsen experience!

First night in Kinosaki Onsen Town @ Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei

We finally made it to Kinosaki and checked into our hotel, Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei. It's a larger place than our previous onsen experience at Arashiyama Benkei but were still able to get a very nice tatami mat room with a garden view.

Service was outstanding including a welcome snack with tea and a refreshing vinegar juice. Snacks included rice crackers, red bean cookie, a wafer with light cream inside, and a preserved plum candy.

For dinner that night, we were treated to a full kaiseki meal in our room. They even had a special children's kaiseki meal which included sashimi, tempura, Matsuba crab, Tajima beef, and a box of fresh made onigiri. They even had two desserts for her. I would have been perfectly happy with that line up!

The adult menu was much more extensive and left us completely stuffed. We had two separate menus to accommodate my very inconvenient crustacean allergy. While my wife had a good helping of crab, I was treated to extra dishes centered around Tajima beef. I even had my own teppanyaki plate for one of my courses! I hope tomorrow's dinner will be as varied - stay tuned!

Shinkansen to Kinosaki Onsen Town with ekiben from Ekibenya Matsuri

After just a night in Tokyo (we'll be back later), we are headed up to Kinosaki Onsen Town for the next couple of days. It's a pretty long train ride (almost 5 hours with transfers) so getting ekiben was required. Ekibenya Matsuri in Tokyo Station is a crazy place that has a huge selection. We always try to get something different each time, including ones with collectible containers for my daughter.

I opted for the unagi bento which was quite good (though would have been even better served hot). My wife is a huge squid fan and these stuffed squids (ikameshi) are a regional speciality of Hokkaido. Riding the Shinkansen just wouldn't be the same without ekiben!

First bite in Tokyo - Ramen @ Ippudo Roppongi

After an 11+ hour flight and a 1+ hour train ride from Narita, we were exhausted when we got to our hotel in Roppongi. We didn't want to think too much about what to eat so headed to nearby Ippudo Roppongi for a quick bowl of ramen before crashing. Our first bowl of ramen in Japan nearly three years ago was at Ippudo Ginza. Since then, Ippudo has setup shop in Berkeley and San Francisco so we are well acquainted with what they have to offer. 

I will say that there is a vast difference in the quality of Ippudo here versus the US. One major point is that the shops in Berkeley and San Francisco no longer offer soft boiled eggs (only hard boiled eggs or poached eggs). When I asked one of the waitresses in San Francisco, she told me it was due to the amount of time it took to get perfectly peeled soft boiled eggs for every bowl. Doesn't seem to be an issue for the shops in Japan! The other thing I noticed is that it's less expensive for a bowl of ramen in Japan versus the US. I got the Akamaru Special meal set which came with a good helping of gyozas for 1,500 Yen (about $13.50 USD). In the US, the Akamaru Special by itself is about $19 USD!

Delicious ramen with zero problems and for an affordable price. A great start to our trip.