What is the most luxurious thing you have ever done? Stayed in a 5-star hotel? Eaten at a Michelin 3-star? Flown first class? I can’t say that we are really luxury chasers by nature, but the idea of staying in a high-end ryokan in Japan has always been on my radar. I would say “bucket list”, but I don’t really like that term.
When we decided to go to Japan, this idea of staying in a fancy ryokan surfaced. I had read so much about the experience and we decided to splurge for two nights at Ryokan Kurishiki, in its namesake town a bit Southwest of Okayama. This was really a once in a lifetime experience and I’m not sure how to begin describing it, so…bullet points!
- Arrive and drop our damp bags and umbrella on the floor.
- Get escorted to the lounge and served tea and treats.
- Staff asks us, as we enjoy our tea, when we would like dinner served and whether we would like sake with it?
- Also, when we would like to enjoy our bath time tonight and breakfast the following morning?
- Get shown to our room which includes a jacuzzi tub, powder room, bedroom, toilet room, downstairs sitting room and upstairs loft sitting room.
- Act like teenagers in their first ever hotel and run from room to room and open every drawer, cabinet, and window.
- Shuffle through all the bath supplies and immediately start bathing and put on kimonos.
- drink all the weird juice in the minifridge.
- go smell bath products again.
- put some clothes on for dinner, which may not be necessary but we don’t know.
- go back to lounge and sample sake.
- answer the knock at the door to let us know that it is dinner time and our dinner room for the evening is in the special room above the entryway if you can please follow me?
- eat dinner which is a 9-course affair with exquisite presentation.
- return to room and change back into kimonos because it’s bath time.
- relax in the hotspring tub.
- sleep in a super nice bed with really nice sheets.
- wake up to the New York Times delivered in our room.
- have husband fetch you coffee while you read the news and sit in your upstairs sitting area in kimono.
- go have a crazy breakfast with at least 27 tiny dishes per person and a personal grill to grill your fish and roe (fish eggs for breakfast)!
- more bathtime (optional).
- Enjoy Japanese gardens and museums nearby.
- sunset walk around the picturesque neighborhood.
Of course this list does not even begin to describe the experience. It is kind of like someone asking you how your garden is doing. Which part? The flowers, vegetables? That bear that just ran through the yard? Part of what I was excited about for our stay was just the things you can’t put your finger on, like walking around on straw tatami mats in this 200 year old building or having someone put your shoes facing the correct way so you can just slip them on when you’re ready to leave. Sometimes it’s better to just not try. Hopefully you can get a sense from the pictures how much of an experience this was for us.
The town of Kurishiki was just as picturesque as our Ryokan, especially at sunset. Tiny shops along the canals and everyone enjoying themselves made for a very relaxing walk.
When we did stray from our ryokan we took a day trip to Okayama to visit the Karaku-en garden and the local prefectural museum. A short train ride and we were there.
Ever the suckers for Japanese gardens we entered and were asked if we would like a free guided tour by a man who had just retired but wanted to keep his English sharp.
We followed him around the gardens as he explained how the local river was diverted to make the castle more secure and all the intricacies of the garden. Japanese gardens require rocks, water, grass and hills. This garden was flat initially, but they brought in soil and also many large rocks when they built it in the 1700’s. They cut the big stones and transported them in segments.
After a great walk around the garden and a trip to see swords at the prefectural museum, we headed back for our second and last super fancy dinner.
So, back to Kurasiki for another lovely evening. I know you’re thinking, “What about the food? Certainly we’re not going to get off with only seeing 6 food pictures!” Well, you’re right 🙂 Here it comes. The grand finale!
Wait, I take that back. THIS is the most magical bite of food ever. Waygu beef.
Ok that’s enough… Dinner. Just a few more, from breakfast.
With our bellies full we said goodbye to this magical place and once again packed our backpacks and set off for the next destination.