Yamanaka means “inside the mountain”, and that’s exactly where our ryokan was! Our friend, Keisuke, helped Sean find and book this traditional Japanese hotel room in Ishikawa Prefecture. My favorite part of our hotel room was its peaceful simplicity. The floors were covered in tatami mats, we slept on comfy beds with buckwheat-filled pillows, and could sit in two different spots to enjoy our view of a river and the mountain that enveloped the hotel. Plus, we had a toilet with a heated seat (necessary when there’s no central heating and it’s 32F/0C outside). Our toilet paper dispenser also sang a little tune when used. The tea pictured was complimentary and tasted salty and sour; it was sencha green tea with ume and toasted rice. Delicious — but maybe call it soup instead of tea! You’ll also see Sean getting fitted for his yukata, which we both got to wear all around the hotel — for meals in the dining room too!
The staff at our ryokan were welcoming, kind, and helpful. They did not speak any English, but they did a wonderful job making us feel comfortable. Keisuke helped us a lot while checking in and out — not sure how well that would have gone without him! Upon learning that we had gotten engaged while staying at their hotel, the staff took our picture and framed it for us! We now have as a keepsake two framed photos of ourselves with congratulatory messages written in Japanese.
The town of Yamanaka is really small and very quaint. We were the only Westerners walking around, which was fun for everyone. We had lunch at a small restaurant where the owners spoke no English and the menu was entirely in Japanese. Somehow, via broken Japanese, English, and sign language, we ended up with a fabulous lunch and even gifts from the owners! You’ll see that we also went sake tasting. I learned on this trip that I like sake — the good stuff!
Our morning walk on December 23 was my favorite — not just because that was when Sean proposed — but also because it was chilly, quiet, and beautiful. We saw a bunch of bridges, some shrines, and a few forest creatures.
Once each day that we were at the ryokan, we enjoyed the onsen. An onsen is a semi-public bath. Men and women go their separate ways into locker rooms. There, they undress completely (luckily I was prepared for this because my little sis had filled me in — she’s an onsen pro), bathe themselves in mini showers (one must sit upon a little stool in order to utilize the very low, but thankfully removable shower heads), and then enjoy the bath, which is essentially a giant hot tub. It’s dimly lit, very steamy, and ours played beautiful Japanese music. We could even go outdoors to sit in a hot tub and enjoy the natural beauty around us. I love the onsen! I miss the onsen! Below are photos outside the changing rooms. I’m sure you understand why I couldn’t take photos inside!