Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Pool of Koi, Mint Green Spring Water, and a Smiling Okami-san

To soak up Japanese culture, explore hot springs and chat with the friendly people you encounter. Being sociable to strangers in springs is conducive to pleasant experiences with lovely people, such as the proprietress, or okami-san (女将さん) of Murakamikan (村上館)in Tsukioka Onsen, Shibata City, Niigata (月岡温泉、新発田市、新潟).  

The Hot Spring Ryokan Okami-san and Her Koi Pond

Wearing a sky-blue kimono and a warm, wide smile, she gave my wife and I a tour of the garden and springs in her traditional Japanese inn, called ryokan (旅館) in Japanese.
The koi pond, filled with flashing gold, orange, white, and red colors, was a relaxing place to enjoy a cup of coffee after a hard day of bathing. Researching hot springs for this blog is exhausting work. Water pours through cut bamboo into the center of the pond that is surrounded by Japanese maple trees and other greenery. The koi, expecting a meal will swim towards you, or, perhaps, they are earnestly doing their job of greeting visitors.
A Relaxing Place to Drink Coffee After a Relaxing Bath - No Stress Allowed!
The hot water, oyu (お湯), in the baths is a light mint green, indicating that the water is alkaline, which makes one's skin feel slippery when wet and smooth when dry. This type of water is often called "the water of beautiful women," or bijinnoyu (美人お湯)in Japanese. For more on the characteristics of hot spring water, click here.
Mint Green Onsen Water / Outside Bath
Murakamikan has a variety of baths. Two baths are for the pleasure of the inn's guests and for guests dropping in just for a soak.  The more expensive rooms, reserved for overnight guests, come with private baths. Indoor, uchiyu, (内湯)and outdoor baths, called rotenburo, (露天風呂) are available.

Indoor Bath With View of Outdoor Bath
There are also baths which are for families or couples. These are known as kashikiriburo (貸切風呂)in Japanese. For an intimate experience choose this option. Murakamikan rents these private enclosed areas for periods of forty-five minutes, a bit too short in my opinion. In Beppu, Oita, where this way of bathing is very popular, one hour is standard.
This Private Hot Spring Bath Is for Families or Couples
To see some beautiful photographs of the food and the facilities at this inn, click here. The link will take you to a website written in Japanese.