We knew that it would not take long before finding ourselves back in Japan again. Especially after the splendid time we had in Tokyo the year before. The draw to the pleasant climate, yummy food, efficient transportation, courteous people, kawaii stuff over again was tremendous. And now we head to Kansai Japan, where ancient capitals were situated before shifting power to Tokyo. And Kyoto is very much the main reason for this trip. Kyoto has 17 sites listed in UNESCO World Heritage! Isn’t that impressive? Because of that, Kyoto has always been in my must-visit Japanese cities other than Tokyo.
I wasted little time to score promotional flight tickets to Osaka during one of Malaysia Airlines ticket sales. The ticket per pax cost slightly less than S$450 which is a great value even with a stopover in Kuala Lumpur. And the flight arrives at Kansai Airport during the early morning, which adds one full day to the itinerary.
Dude…Where’s My Luggage?
We are absolutely delighted when the plane landed, only to be informed that our checked-in luggage was somehow left behind at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. It will be on the next flight which is a day later. What a wet blanket…this is the exact reason why I always buy travel insurances for my trips. And in anticipation of this kind of scenario, I have always kept my travel necessity in the carry-on bag.
No biggie, we are on our way after the paperwork and ‘luggage delay compensation’ collected.
Shirahama in Kansai
Unlike most tourists who are northbound for either Osaka or Kyoto, we travel south towards Shirahama (白浜町) in Wakayama Prefecture. This town on the south coast of Kansai is well known for its white sandy beaches and onsen (hot spring). The train ride took around 2.5 hours.
Shirahama onsen is among the three oldest hot springs in Japan, mentioned in the ancient history book that past emperors and their royal subjects were here for the onsen too. We did not have the courage to do as the Romans do by baring our butt in the public onsen, so I booked a guest room with a private onsen at Hotel Sanrakuso (三楽荘) instead.
Shirahama JR train station is quite far from the town centre so it’s either a ride in the taxi or public bus to Hotel Sanrakuso. We opt for the later and bought the Shirahama 1 Day Bus Pass for 1,000 JPY (S$12) at the Tourist information office.
Somehow, the delay of our luggage became a blessing as it would be a big hassle to lug it into the small bus. After leaving our belongings at the concierge, it’s time to explore this small town. And our first stop is?? The local food market of course!
The Onsen Hotels in Shirahama
Of all the things-to-do in Japan, soaking in natural hot spring water or onsen is definitely one experience not to be missed. The nation’s obsession to the onsen is dated centuries back, where relaxing in the hot spring waters is an essential way to heal the tired bodies.
While getting naked for a soak with strangers is Operativa Standard to Japanese, we are not really comfortable to do that. Yes yes…I know we can use the towel for modesty when walking around the bath area. But the towel is perhaps best to use to cover our super Paiseh faces instead lol.
So if you want to soak in natural goodness but not keen to show off your birthday suit just yet, there are two options for people like us. You can either look for Onsen hotel or Ryokan that offer ‘reserved bath’ (Kashikiri-buro) where you can book time slots to soak in private. Or do what we did by booking a room with attached private onsen.
Google lead me to the popular Shirahama hotels like Hotel Seamore with in-room private onsen and a great location to explore around Shirahama. But the private onsen rooms are on the first floor facing the garden which I thought would be nicer if they face the Pacific Ocean instead…just like Sakinoyu.
STAY: Hotel Sanrakuso Shirahama review
Then I come across Hotel Sanrakuso and was sold instantly by its Onsen room’s image gallery. In-room onsen, checked. Pacific Ocean view, checked. The room on the 9th floor offers a fantastic view of Shirahama famed white sandy beach and the impressive Pacific Ocean.
It indeed did not disappoint us. If any, surpass our expectation as the view from the room is way better than the advertised pictures. And the traditional tatami room is big considering the usual hotel room size in Japan.
But the main highlight is, of course, the bathtub filled with hot spring water.
The experience to soak in the tub while looking at the Pacific Ocean is surely cloud nine calibres. The icing on the cake is able to do just that at own time own target, how nice!
Dinner is served in the room unless you specifically opt to eat at the restaurant. Who would do that?? I just soak happily in the tub and chillax until dinner time. We were so chill that we didn’t leave the comfy room until check out. As for the dinner, it was really nice but not filling as the portion is small. Thank goodness that we bought some munch during the wandering earlier on.
The only downside is perhaps the damage to the wallet at a steep 50,000 JPY (S$600) per night!! And that’s offseason pricing else it will be hovering anywhere between 60,000 to 78,000 JPY. No doubt it’s expensive compared to those public onsens but to us, it’s money well spent for the great experience.
We have breakfast at the restaurant next day and went back to the room for one last soak before leaving. We even thought of extending one more night lol. Bye, Shirahama! And off to Kyoto!
3078, Shirahama-cho, Nishimuro-gun, Wakayama prefecture 649-2211, Japan