It’s a tatami world

Of our 29 nights in Japan, 14 of these were spent sleeping on futons on traditional tatami matting on the floor. We stayed in ryokans (Japanese inns), minshukos (family run private lodgings), shukubos (temples) and hostels with Japanese style rooms. At first, it’s a bit of surprise to be shown to your room and not see any beds at all but these either magically appear later in the evening or you have to do a bit of DIY and get your own futon and bedding sorted. Where bedding was put out for us, it always amused me that no matter the size of the room, all the futons were put close together not making much use of the available space but maybe this is some sort of feng shui or equivalent thing. The futons were quite comfortable but I was also secretly quite pleased we were in beds some of the nights, even when these were bunk beds on one occasion.

L: Room prepared for the day time; R: same room prepared for night time

All accommodation (be it traditional or modern) throughout Japan was beautifully clean and well presented. Even where there were only shared bathrooms (which is quite common in the ryokans and minshukos etc) again these were immaculate.

In the big cities (Tokyo in particular), space was at an absolute premium: in Ueno Hostel we had booked a room for 3 people which came with 2 beds. And that was all there was in the room: you could just about walk around the first bed to get to the slightly larger second bed but there was hardly any floor space for our luggage (let alone anywhere to unpack if you had wanted to do that). When we returned to the same hostel following our friend’s return to the UK, we were in an even smaller room with one bed: this time, as long as we didn’t want to open the door to the room, we were able to store our luggage on the floor. And because the ensuite bathroom was too small for the sink, this was in the bedroom itself: an inventive use of space in the capital where they obviously try to monetise every inch possible. But it’s still super clean with all the necessary amenities and it works: no complaints.

L: Ueno Hostel, Tokyo (for 3 people); R: ensuite bathrooms were very compact to say the least but had everything you needed including of course a hi-tech toilet

After Kinosaki when we had scrubbed ourselves clean to within an inch of our lives (see Blog post “Getting hot and steamy”, 20 May 2018), I thought we had seen the best onsens in Japan. That was however before checking into Dai-ichi Takimoto-kan in Noboribetsu Onsen, Hokkaido, which came complete with its “hot spring heaven”: a vast 7 bath onsen, the grand arrangement of which reminded me a little of the Roman Baths in Bath Spa in the UK. As well as these onsens there was also a sauna, steam room, jacuzzi bath and swimming pool so a trip to this part of the ryokan was quite a commitment and a thoroughly enjoyable one. And then there was the dinner and breakfast eat as much as you can buffet to die for which served an amazing range of delicious food all beautifully presented including a wonderful array of very tempting desserts. And did we succumb? Of course we did: we made excellent use of our time in the dining room and completely over-indulged.

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