By Neal Dang
I've been traveling through Japan for a month now, and before moving on to Nagasaki Prefecture and then to Okinawa I decided to come back to Ureshino Onsen town. I've been here earlier during my trip; however, I really wanted to enjoy the transparent and silky Ureshino hot spring waters one more time.
I chose to stay in the historic Ryokan Oomuraya. Opened in 1830 this traditional Japanese-style inn provides spacious hot spring baths overlooking Ureshino river. Four different types of private baths are also available. There was a beautiful round wooden bath that caught my attention immediately. So I reserved it for an hour in the afternoon and just couldn’t wait to slide into the wonderful deep tub. However, first of all I was served a nice cup of Ureshino green tea by a nakai (personal attendant), inside a lovely tatami guest room. I was resting on a zaisu (traditional Japanese legless chair) and finishing my tea when a member of the staff called me to confirm the bath was ready. I put on the yukata provided by the hotel and I went downstairs to enjoy the gorgeous Ureshino spring water. It comes from a sodium bicarbonate spring rich in sodium. They emulsify and wash away skin oils and secretions, so when you get out, you are left with very smooth skin. It is also said that when you drink this spring water, it is effective for invigorating the function of your digestive system, liver and other organs. After a 30 minute revitalizing bath I took a cold shower and returned to my room.
Just a little later Japanese dinner was served in my room, and the table was full of delicious looking dishes. I remember them all because a member of the staff gave me explanations in English about every single one of them. I was also given a written menu; I had salmon roe, tomato and nameko mushrooms dressed with tofu, assorted sashimi, clear soup with wonton, shrimp gratin, a stuffed deep-fried tofu with seasonal vegetables, original steamed egg hotchpotch with creamy sauce on top, assorted tempura, shrimp sweet potato and pumpkin and rice and pickles. And, of course, I don’t want to forget one of my favorite dishes: cha-shabu. It is the local specialty and a kind of hot-pot dish prepared with locally produced green tea and high quality pork. For dessert green tea pudding was served. The whole dinner was a true delight.
Before bedtime the nakai came to my room, moved the table aside and set out the futon on the tatami floor. Now everything was ready for a peaceful sleep. However, I needed to get some work done, so I decided to take my laptop and go to the "living room" where wi-fi was available. The atmosphere in that room was great; the lighting was perfect and a Wes Montgomery album, "Echoes of Indiana Avenue", was playing on the CD player.
The spacious public bath is always open from 06:00 to 24:00 and so I decided to experience the Ureshino onsen once again just before going to bed.
The next day breakfast was served inside the room again, at 8:30 am. It was a typical Japanese breakfast accompanied with a popular dish of the Ureshino Onsen area; the tasty and healthy Onsen Yudofu. It's a Japanese tofu hot pot boiled with hot spring water so that it becomes smooth and mellow.
Ryokan Oomuraya is definitely more than just a place to sleep; they give you the opportunity to experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle and Japanese hospitality. You can enjoy rooms with tatami floors, sleep on futons, soak in Japanese-style baths and fall in love with the local cuisine. The entire staff was warm, friendly and accommodating, making my stay a very special and relaxing experience that I would highly recommend to everyone.
This wonderful ryokan is about 5 minutes by foot from the Ureshino Onsen bus center. To get take a JR bus from the Nagasaki line Takeo Onsen station; it takes about 25 minutes.
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