Sunday, December 11, 2016

Iwanoyu at Seni Onsen, Suzaka, Nagano, Part III

Just as we left Iwanoyu at Seni Onsen's private bath 5, it was time for dinner. Dinner was served anytime between 6-7:30, but it'd be a long course dinner that would leave us stuffed to our ears. So we showed up at 6, just so we could take our time and can still visit the baths afterwards.

The corridor to the private dining rooms had a nice fountain with a mini waterfall.

Our room opened to a bamboo grove, and it just as we sat down to eat, it started to rain, which only added to the ambiance of the experience. So we dined while listening to the rain showering a bamboo grove ^.^

The ryokan was so nice as to provide us a menu with both Japanese and English. Most other ryokans don't.

As always, hubby was fascinated with the calligraphy on the wall.

Group photo was a given ^.^

That night, hubby drank three flasks of cold sake (I'm not really a drinker), and each came out looking like this. Cute, huh? I was fine with hot teas and cold juices.

The starter course.

The sashimi course, with koi sashimi being the pink-red fish at right there. Yes, they eat those too in Japan, and no, that was our first time trying koi sashimi. I didn't like it, because I don't like raw fish in general (no, really, only cooked "sushi" for me). Hubby thought it was decent, not his favorite fish to eat raw but it was very fresh.

Here's hubby grinning at the grilled course. Can you guess why?

Look a bit closer. See anything funny? Yes, it was a fish on a stick. The fish was ayu, or sweetfish. It looked grisly, and it was a bit tough to eat because some places gut the fish for you and other places don't. This ryokan did *not* gut the fish, and we made an absolute mess trying to pick the meat off of the bone and the stick. But you know what, that fish was actually tasty! ^.^ If you look closely at the fin and tail of the fish, you'd see that it's crusted with salt, the only seasoning on the fish itself! When I saw the fish I thought I'd hate it but I actually quite enjoyed picking at it!

The top two photos are of tororo, a dish of raw, grated nagaimo mixed with steamed green leafy veggies. It's super slimy and sticky but is a huge health food in Japan. Many restaurant will serve udon or soba in it.

Grilled wagyu and veggies course, and a couple other odds and ends.

Rice and soup were served last in a traditional course meal, you know, to fill us up in case we weren't bursting at the seams yet. Hubby told me it was the same in Beijing when he was living and going to school there, restaurants served rice last and not with the dishes he ordered.

Desserts was simple and was in small enough portion that we didn't pass out upon sight of it. Over all, the whole meal was as amazing as it was described in the book. In fact, this meal was the best kaiseki hubby and I have had thus far. We went to another nice onsen ryokan a couple of months later, and yet a third ryokan in Kyoto, but both meals just couldn't measure up to this one. None of the meals we'd had in the past was anywhere close to this quality.

We were so full after dinner that the thought of going to soak in a hot bath made us sick. So we snuck around the respective men and women's public baths instead and agreed to meet over at the cave bath in 10 minutes. To my luck the women's were completely deserted, so I got to take a few photos.

Changing room and shower room.

The women's indoor pool.

The women's outdoor pool.

Here's the entrance to the cave bath. The water inside is only lukewarm and not actually hot as with the onsen water. As no towels or swimsuits are allowed, for the cave bath the ryokan provided a top for women and knee-length shorts for men and women. Also, the darkness is not because of the nighttime but because, well, it was an actual cave. Yes, a real cave meandering some 30m deep with a redone entrance and stone columns put up for support inside.

So hubby and I waded all the way to the back of the cave and climbed up to where the natural hot spring water was gushing out of the wall. It was pretty creepy because it was so dark we couldn't see through the knee-high water otherwise crystal clear. There were only a few photos where I had to turn on the flash of my dying cellphone, and as you can see it would have been pretty nice were the cave better lit, though that would probably change the adventurous tone of the whole thing.

Yes, I'd say the cave bath was wicked fun but was kind of dangerous (thrill was the whole point, I think...). It definitely wasn't for everyone, especially young children and older folks. It was so dark inside and there were many rocks and high steps all of which were slippery and easy to stumble over (reminder: it's a cave!). I had to feel for every step with my feet, and hubby had to grip my hand tight the whole time to make sure I wouldn't trip and fall.

Anyway, after the cave bath we hung around to try all the 4 different private baths (private baths 4 and 5 were identical). We got back to our room at around 10:30ish to find our futon beds already made, and waiting for us on the table in the living room was a plate of late night snack of fresh cut fruits!

Woot, what a night! Next up: a similarly large and elaborate breakfast, and even more exploration of the ryokan and its surroundings.

See my previous posts:


Citrine said...

Love those bowls,plates, forks, trays etc...I think if I go to a cave like that (somehow knowing that is warm water makes it so much more comforting), I will need a night vision hat (for mining...since it doubles up as helmet).

D. said...

Hi Citrine,

Oh yes, I love those bowls and plates myself! I'll post more pictures of the second onsen ryokan we went to in August, and there all of their dishware are handmade locally. Super special!

Anyway, that cave bath was awesome, although thank goodness the water was just lukewarm. Because it was so humid and wet in there, being a cave and all. I just can't imagine it getting any more humid or hot! If my phone wasn't dying then I'd take all the photos with flash so everyone (and myself) can see the cave.


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