This year we were lucky enough to experience our first Traditional Japanese Inn (Ryokan 旅館 ) and natural hot spring (Onsen 温泉). This is one of our most treasured experiences ever!
Harataki 原瀧 is set in the hills and streams of Aizuwakamatsu. The Onsen volcanic water comes from a privately sourced line directly from a nearby Volcano.
As part of the room price a Kaiseki 懐石 dinner and buffet breakfast is included in the cost as well as free access to the public Onsens. Private Onsens and spa treatments are available for extra fees.
Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. The term also refers to the collection of skills and techniques that allow the preparation of such meals. It’s almost an artform in Japan. Everything was made with such skill, care and attention to detail. The Kaiseki dinner was a great way for us to be able to sample little bits of so many different Japanese cuisines. Somethings that we haven’t even tried before! We were given our own private table room with free access to the buffet dinner as well as our Kaiseki meal. We.ate.EVERYTHING!!
The rooms were very spacious Tatami mat traditional styled rooms. The hotel will ask what time you would like dinner, during this time staff will come and lay your beds out for you. The views from our room was absolutely breath taking! A running stream divides the Ryokan from the foliage covered cliff that was so tall it was topped with fog.
The view from the public outdoor Onsens were even more impressive.
When entering a Japanese hot spring (unless you are using a unisex Onsen) you will be completely nude. You are given a small modesty towel that you can use to cover some of your bits while moving between baths but these must not go into the volcanic water.
As you sit, completely vulnerable, in the hot mineral rich water; you are surrounded by nature. A cool breeze soothes your skin. The sounds of the stream just out of arms reach calms the mind. The smell of the rain trickling off the leaves beside you. It becomes a whole body and mind experience.
We bathed in the Onsens twice. The first time we were lucky enough to have the bathing areas to ourselves! The second time we each met lovely locals. No one was self-conscious and it was very liberating. The Japanese people we met in the Onsens were so happy that we both absolutely loved the Onsen experience and went out of their way to make sure we were happy and comfortable.
Harataki Ryokan was on every level a magical experience. We couldn’t recommend high enough!
Part of our reason for coming to Harataki was the fact that they allow foreigners with Tattoos into the public baths. Many Onsens do not allow people with Tattoos. Please keep this in mind when looking for an Onsen. If an Onsen doesn’t have a notice that specifically says they don’t allow Tattoos then you will just need to ask and they may have questions about the type of Tattoo you have.
If you call them directly they will pick you up from the bus terminal Higashiyama Onsen Station for free.
After we meet at our bike location, we take off as a group to our first stop called "Yoshikien", a garden gathering 3 styles Japanese gardens in a unique location; a way to enjoy and rediscover the place at every season. Then, we stop by "Nandaimon gate" to admire the Buddhism style building and walk around the place, petting and feeding the deers.