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Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/10 22:36
Hello, we are planning our first trip to Japan in August and are focused mainly on Tokyo but also want to visit Kyoto and have the experience of a ryokan stay and onsen.

We have 12 days in total.

We were planning 2 nights in Kyoto (with a stop to see Himeji castle on the way back to Tokyo)

I thought about a day trip to Kamakura on one of the days as well.

My question is do we stay at ryokan and try onsen in Kyoto or should we do a separate trip to an onsen like Shuzenji (we had some ryokan recommendations in Izu from friends).

We realise itfs going to be hot and humid hence in Kyoto we have a simple itinerary and we feel 2 nights will be enough for us.

I really would like to try the experience of outside onsen and proper ryokan but the recommendations were quite expensive hence we only want this for 1 night.

Happy to hear thoughts - how far is Izu from Tokyo? Is Shuzenji worth the trip just for onsen?
If we do that we would stay in a normal hotel in Kyoto.

Thank you!!
by Sana747  

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/11 11:46
Hi, really I wouldnt in Kyoto. Shuzenji is very nice but it would be very hot as well. Personally, I'd look for somewhere cool - Nikko or Kamikochi. I'm not up on ryokans in Nikko, but Onsen Hotel at Kamikochi is very nice.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/11 12:07
Kyoto is not known for onsen (there are few), so I would not recommend it since your time there is short. Izu penninsula is well known for onsen, and Shuzenji is just one of so many. However, there is not much else to do besides onsen. Other towns on Izu Penninsula known for onsen includes: Atami, Ito, etc. Hakone is not on the penninsula, but nearby and it is very popular. One of the reasons for its popularity is there are lots of things to do besides onsen.
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5200.html
by Miyako (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/11 13:37
Thank you both - in that case we will plan Kyoto in normal hotel and focus on the sights.

What about Kusatso and Kuraizawa?

The real issue here is distance from Tokyo. We want to go for one night to an onsen town so it has to be a short journey - I donft want to spend hours on trains.

A friend told me to skip Hakone in Summer and Ifm reading in guide that Shuzenji also is best avoided in Summer?!

Still very confused :)
by Sana747 rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/11 13:56
Kusatsu has lovely water and is a fun town, but we were there in May and it was very hot (unseasonal heat) and the room didnt have air conditioning and was pretty feral. If you go, make sure your room is air conditioned.

Karuizawa is one of my favorite towns and you are right, it is quite cool there. It isnt an onsen town as such and you dont get people wandering around at night in yukata like you do in Kusatsu and Kinosaki, but it has some great restaurants and it is a fun and friendly town. We have stayed a few times at Tsuruya Ryokan which has a nice onsen (inside) and is a great place to learn the ryokan experience as they are very good with foreigners, but last time we went we stayed at Le Grand Kyu which is more an upmarket hotel with great onsen facilities, both inside and outside (outside is under some nice trees, tres relaxant!). The rooms at Le Grand Kyu are awesome, really my wife is busting to get back.

If you stay at Karuizawa, you can make a day trip to Kusatsu, as it is about 1 1/2 hours or less by bus from the train station.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/11 13:59
I'll just add that my experience with Hakone has been that it is cool in summer. Maybe your friend was warning you off because of the number of people there? We stayed at Fukumuziro ryokan at Tonosawa (next to Hakone Yumoto) in our recent trip. I couldnt recommend it enough, it is absolutely magical and you couldnt get a better ryokan experience. That said, only one room has a toilet inside it, so try to snag that one.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/11 19:57
Hi!

I've only been in Hakone in June (of the 3 Summer months) and it was quite a comfortable temperature, though I know by August it will be hotter. However, August is a vacation time for the Japanese and Hakone is easily reachable from Tokyo. I expect your friend was thinking more in terms of crowds and raised prices.

I'm actually surprised @LazyPious didn't recommend Bessho onsen. Ueda isn't that far from Tokyo by Shinkansen and then you change for a local train to Bessho. I would also think all the ryokan in Yudanaka and Shibu might work. They're actually more popular in Winter months because they're near the snow monkey onsen and I would imagine in August there are a lot fewer monkeys onsening. Bessho, Yudanaka and Shibu are all higher up so should be cooler.

Good luck OP!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/12 01:41
Thank you Lazy Pious and arkold! This is all very helpful and I will look through all your recommendations.

I think my friend was recommending I skip Hakone because of the crowds but also because Mt Fuji isnft as impressive as with the snow cap ;) also my husband and I are very much urban people and our first time in Japan is mainly to experience the quirkiness and chaos of Tokyo - Ifm the one who is set on also having the ryokan and onsen experience as I feel it would be a shame not to (and we are leaving our kids behind do a lot more flexible in our options).

So to summarise if we decide to stay 2 nights in Kyoto in a normal hotel and forget about ryokan/onsen there then we go back to Tokyo passing by Himeji Castle (friend said worth a stop to see it?)
Any good hotels in Kyoto that you would recommend? I donft as planning to stay in the Gion area? Is that a good idea??

Kinosaki actually looked very nice but the problem is that itfs too far from Tokyo and if we only have 2 days in Kyoto am not sure itfs worth going to Kinosaki and then back to Kyoto?

If we were to choose just one onsen/ryokan from Tokyo and only for 1 night total (leave Tokyo in the morning stay the night and come back later the next day) which one would be your top choice?? The idea of outside onsen is very enticing and yes def a private bathroom and AC are non negotiable 🤣


To sum up these are 2 options:

Tokyo to Kyoto
Stay 1 night
Kyoto Kinosaki
Stay 1 night
Kinosaki Kyoto stay 1 night
Return to Tokyo and visit Himeji on the way


Or go to Kyoto for 2 nights and then come back to Tokyo and do a separate trip to a close onsen for 1 night?

I am also planning a day trip to Kamakura on one of the days we will be in Tokyo - worth it?!


Thank you again!! And sorry for all the questions!
by Sana747 rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/12 02:58
you might consider Kawaguchiko. They've got a lot of ryokan with views of Fujisan. Many have open air baths. It's an easy train journey from Tokyo. However, I don't know how hot it will be.
by nealson rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/12 04:51
Haha, yes Bessho Onsen is very nice, comparatively cheap too. The ryokans there are more the hotel ryokan style, so much that I saw though there might be more traditional ones.

Kawaguchiko was overpriced, I thought, though I'm glad I went for the spectacular Fuji views and the hot dog at the cafe next to the doll museum which I mention at every opportunity.

Kamakura is one of my favorite places, as is Enoshima. We usually stay at Iwamotoro Honkan on Enoshima which is excellent. Really recommended. Likely to be crowded in August.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/12 05:09
Hi!

Himeji is not on the way to Tokyo. Himeji is about 45 minutes west of Kyoto, going towards Okayama and Hiroshima. Tokyo is the opposite direction. You can go on your way to Tokyo but it's not on the way.

Don't go to Hakone to see Mt. Fuji. I have been 4 or 5 times and have yet to see Mt. Fuji from Hakone. It's not a guaranteed view, particularly in the Summer. If you want to go to Hakone, go to Hakone for Hakone's sake. Kawaguchiko has more guaranteed Fuji views, if that is important to you. Personally, I got a stunning view flying from Narita to Itami a few weeks ago.

Good places to stay really depend on your price range. I've stayed at 4 different places over my last 4 trips to Kyoto. 2 I would stay in again, and 2 I would not, as the beds felt like I was sleeping on a rock and I woke up every morning with back pain. But a lot is about your price range and I've no idea what the prices will be like in August since again, August is high season for travel by the Japanese.

So re you currently doing 10 nights in Tokyo and 2 in Kyoto? I love cities. I love Tokyo. I have been regretting that my last few trips I've not spent enough time in Tokyo, and next time plan to spend 4-5 nights with just Tokyo things planned vs. 3-4 with day trips to Koriyama or Sendai. But 10 seems like a lot. Tokyo is also awful hot and humid in August normally. It was warm and humid most of our days this trip (except the day we left when it poured) and Kyoto was just awful. In our other 4 trips it rained at least once to break the heat, but this time it was just hot, humid and sunny.

Personally, in OPs shoes I would probably look into Shibu or Yudanaka onsen or Bessho. I think the trip is easier, since it's from Tokyo, where OP already has more days set aside.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/12 08:30
Bessho can be very nice- we stayed in a lovely place there
by Winter Visitor rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/12 19:36
Hi everyone thank you for all the input and tips.

Unfortunately, August is the only time we can go due to work commitments and other complicated travel arrangements so it is what it is and we have to make the most of it.

I donft particularly care about a good view of Mt Fuji I do agree that 10 days in Tokyo heat might get to us hence we would leave for a night away to an onsen.

Kyoto is a city we feel we should make an effort to visit and because it will be hot we have put together a specific list of a few temples and sites and set aside 2 nights to just visit it as comfortably as possible (resting during peak sun)

Someone mentioned a good hotel in Kyoto would love the name - we donft have a set budget but if itfs only 2 night we are ok to splurge a bit. This is sort of an anniversary trip for us so we donft mind paying a bit extra for a nice hotel. My husband has lower back issues so definitely would want to avoid somewhere where the beds are terrible as it would really ruin his trip.

Just for background we grew up in the Middle East so high humidity and heat are not new to us - we are happy to escape into AC indoors and see as much as we can when the sun is not too hot.
Tokyo for us is the focus of this trip we also have friends who live there and are happy to take us around (they donft really have too much info o onsen etc) so we are ok to spend most of our time there esp that we will need a day or 2 to adjust for jet lag.

In total we would have 5 days out of Tokyo potentially 6 if we do a day trip to Kamakura and 6 full days in Tokyo.

I will look into the onsen you all mentioned closer to Tokyo as it seems like a better solution rather than close to Kyoto.

To sum up - Hakone is not worth it?

Question re Himeji - although not on the way it was suggested that it makes sense to see it on the return trip to Tokyo from Kyoto - is it worth the detour?!

Thank you again!!
by Sana747 rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/12 21:17
I would not break up your stay in Kyoto with an onsen trip in the middle. Just too much time wasted on making the changes. Stay in Kyoto two nights with the onsen before or after.

Rather than going to Kamakura as a day trip from Tokyo, could you possibly add a night to Kyoto? I honestly don't see Kamakura as being any more appealing or interesting than Kyoto, and if you had a third night in Kyoto you could spend half of it sightseeing at places that are as good as Kamakura's sites, and half of it on a day trip to Himeji. Just a thought. (I have nothing against Kamakura, but it gets every bit as crowded as Kyoto during busy tourist times.)

Himeji is well worth a visit, but with so many days of your trip tied up in Tokyo, and another night slotted for an onsen ryokan, you aren't leaving yourself much time for it. If it tickles your fancy, it is entirely possible to do it between Kyoto and Tokyo, but it will surely be a complicated day for you, especially with luggage. It makes for a nice day trip (even just a half-day trip) from Kyoto, but you don't have any days in Kyoto to spare.

One possibility that doesn't seem to be on your radar screen at this point is traveling to Kyoto via Kanazawa and staying at an onsen ryokan along the way. Bessho is indeed a sweet little onsen town (I just stayed there in May and loved my ryokan there, Tamaya), but for your purposes I'd pick one closer to Kyoto, like possibly Kaga Onsen. You could leave Tokyo in the morning, stop in Kanazawa for a little sightseeing (maybe 3 hours, leaving bags in a station locker), and then arrive at your ryokan in time to bathe before dinner. Check out the following morning after breakfast and be in Kyoto by noon. The train connections are very efficient. (Disclaimer: I haven't ever stayed in Kaga Onsen myself yet.) Use cabs strategically so you don't waste a lot of time on buses in Kanazawa or Kaga Onsen.

Here's a question for you: will sleeping on a futon on the floor (tatami mat) work for your husband? Some people find the traditional ryokan sleeping setup to be uncomfortable (I do not have any trouble with it myself, personally). There are many ryokans that have western-style beds, but those may not necessarily be perfect for you, either. The ryokan might have gone to considerable lengths to research and buy the right mattresses, but it's possible they might not have. Providing beds is kind of a secondary priority for many traditional ryokans.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/12 21:51
We have stayed in a few places in Kyoto over the years. The Brighton is beautiful and classic but in a boring area. The Hyatt (stayed about 4 times for maybe 2 weeks) has nice rooms and great restaurants with a spectacular breakfast buffet (their Japanese brekkie is also amazing) but it is riddled with Americans and it has a very American feel, which would be nice if you were in America but not really if you are wanting to enjoy Japan. The area is nicer than the middle of town, close-ish to Kiyomizudera.

I really like Westin Miyako. The area is a bit out of the way but very pleasant and foresty, the Japanese rooms are a nice compromise of convenience and tradition.

You are really spoiled for choice. Personally I would limit time in Kyoto in August, it gets very, very hot.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/12 22:13
Hello Kim and Lazy Pious

Thank you for your response and also for offering practical tips. I must say I am starting to get a bit confused and panicking that I have left this too late!

So just to clarify - my husband doesn't really care about onsen and he would happily skip it but I really want to try it. I was hoping that in a nice ryokan (and we are happy to pay extra to get a nice one for 1 night) the futons would be comfortable enough.....

I'm also not worried about luggage as we will leave our big suitcases in Tokyo and only take a small carry on for 3 day trip which I think could easily be stored.
We would rather avoid long transfers and lots of long stretches on trains.

Because of the whole futon etc issue we really only want to spend 1 night in a traditional ryokan and the other 2 nights in Kyoto we would rather spend in a nice boutique hotel.

I like the idea of doing the onsen on the way to Kyoto certainly more practical than breaking up the stay. I will look at it now.

Also to both - I was told to stay in the Gion area in Kyoto? Is that a good idea? I also wanted to avoid the chain hotels and I know I cannot avoid the crowds and the tourists or the heat but was hoping for a smaller more intimate hotel??

Thanks again and pls continue to give me your thoughts :)

PS Re budget etc as I mentioned we don't want to throw money on something that isn't worth it (I've had recommendations for ryokans at 1200 GBP a night and I think that is excessive!!) but we are happy to pay extra for a luxury experience and don't necessarily want to cut costs on everything - I'm not sure when we will have another opportunity to go to Japan and def not alone (we have young children so this is a very much needed and anticipated break for us as a couple!)

Thanks again!



by Sana747 rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/12 23:09
Futon are often more comfortable than western beds. Give them a chance.
by // (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/12 23:15
Boy, with your husband not giving a hoot about onsen ryokans, and the futon thing possibly being an issue (yes, the better ryokans have more comfortable futons, but some people still have trouble with them, apparently), I'm not sure I'd do it. (At least he's willing to try one, for your sake. Good for him.) August is not a super-duper time for onsen bathing, either, in my opinion.

Hmm. How about just getting a good solid Western-style hotel that has really nice bathing facilities? (The Japanese word is daiyokujo, which means large bath, but there is no good translation in English, and the usual ones such as "public bath" and "communal bath" conjure up unappealing and misleading images. "Spa" doesn't really capture it, either.) There are a lot of them these days (many new midrange hotels are opening up that have these baths, as they are very popular). Then you can experience the whole bath thing, and your husband can opt out if he chooses. And you could get beds to sleep on. Then, go to a restaurant and have a kaiseki dinner. (The combination is certainly not the same as staying at an onsen ryokan, but it has some of the features, without some of the potential drawbacks.)

There is a fairly new hotel in Kyoto that has an attractive daiyokujo and has gotten very good reviews, the Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Kyoto Premier. (I haven't stayed there myself but have seriously considered it.) Possibly give it a look, or consider some other hotels in Kyoto (or even Tokyo) that have a daiyokujo? https://solaria-kyoto.nishitetsu-hotels.com/en-gb The Solaria Nishitetsu (definitely a chain hotel, but not a massive one) is in a pretty good location, as far as Kyoto goes. Where to stay in Kyoto is a complicated question, but for a couple of nights I wouldn't agonize too much over it (just pick one of the popular areas, either "downtown" or else near Kyoto Station). I can't advise on the higher end hotels in Kyoto as I don't have much experience. I did have a lovely stay at the Westin Miyako quite a few years ago but they were discounting much more generously back then. The room was comfortable but nothing special, aside from being a generous size. The location is somewhat inconvenient and there aren't a lot of places to eat in the immediate vicinity. On the plus side, it's walking distance to a number of very nice temples and other places. I also had a nice stay at the Okura. I would say it is comfortable and reliable but nothing particularly special (and definitely not boutiquey). In the Kyoto Station area, if you want a "public bath", maybe take a look at this new place: https://www.hotelvischio-kyoto.com/en/ . I had it booked for my last trip and was looking forward to it but my plans changed, so I haven't tried it yet. This is a moderately priced hotel. A more expensive one that is also brand new and right next to Kyoto Station is The Thousand Kyoto. https://www.hotelvischio-kyoto.com/en/ It is out of my price range, but looks nice. I haven't seen any reviews.

Well, I don't envy you, having to hurry up and make all these decisions. We typically spend months agonizing over our itineraries and booking hotels. But at some point you just have to make your choices and then don't look back. I'm sure that whatever you come up with will be great.

One more comment is that although many people will tell you that you are spending too much time in Tokyo, everyone is different and with all the day trips you have planned, you might end up wishing you had even more time there! So don't overthink that. There are so many things to do in Tokyo that you could spend a month there. And sometimes it's nice just to do some low-key things like walk along the banks of the Sumida River, or have a really nice lunch somewhere and have that be the high point of your day.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/12 23:28
Hi!

Sometimes futon are more comfortable then regular beds, it depends on the futons. It also depends on the regular beds. I have sciatica specifically caused by muscle tightness, so for me anything too hard is never a good thing. I just ache.

I adore the Hana Touro Hotel in Gion. It's a great location, all the rooms come with a private balcony, and it has great bathtubs. I love sitting on my balcony drinking my Keurig coffee in the morning. Every time I pick to stay somewhere else because it is cheaper I regret it immensely and if I go back to Kyoto in 2020, I'm just going to stay there and not risk trying a new hotel. (I'm looking at you Intergate and Visicho! Both hotels had nice staff and were super convenient, but the beds felt like rocks!) I also think the beds in the Royal Park chain tend to be good. I've stayed at one in Kyoto (I think Sanjo?) and Royal Park Shiodome.

Kaga onsen is another option, though I found Kanazawa quite hot last June and Kaga might be the same. Bessho, Yudanaka, and Shibu would all be options if you wanted to take a different route to Kyoto. You could do Tokyo to your onsen ryokan, then take the train from that area to Kanazawa and then eventually the train from Kanazawa down to Kyoto. Nagano is not all that far from Kanazawa via shinkansen and Kanazawa is about 2 hours from Kyoto. I really like Kanazawa.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Question about ryokan/onsen 2019/7/12 23:37
Whoops, I see that I pasted the wrong URL for The Thousand, sorry. Here it is:
https://www.keihanhotels-resorts.co.jp/the-thousand-kyoto/en/

The link for the Solaria Nishitetsu apparently didn't paste properly either, but you can google the full name and it will get you there.

There are just so many hotels in Kyoto, including dozens of new ones. They keep popping up like crazy. It has in fact recently made Kyoto a very attractive place to stay during the non-busy times. The conventional wisdom used to be to stay in Osaka and "commute" to Kyoto if you wanted to save money, but I would say that is certainly no longer true. You can get terrific prices if you go in early June, for example. Unfortunately for you, August is not a non-busy time.

Good luck and have fun!
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

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