Monday, May 7, 2018

Japan 2018 * Day 10-11 * Minobu

Our next destination was Minobu, a small town near Shizuoka. We wanted to stay at a temple ryokan again, and the one we found seemed perfect as online reviews wrote that the owner could speak english, that it would be close to Mount Fuji and that it would have great food.

The only cherry tree we saw during our trip and which greeted us at Minobu station ^o^

On our way to Minobu we took the Fujikawa Express train which had the most amazing view of Mount Fuji ever! It drove really close to Mount Fuji, we had perfect weather (blue sunny sky with barely any clouds), and the train had huge windows! (Unfortunately I didn't took a picture of it because I wanted to enjoy the view and take pictures on the way back, but then the weather was so bad that you could barely see the mountain ;_;).

After arriving at Minobu station, we had to change to a bus which would bring us further up on the Mount Minobu. Then we had to walk up a very steep road to finally reach Kakurinbo, the temple ryokan. Actually it was more of a house where the family of the owner - a monk - lived and where they had some guest rooms. When we arrived, the owner also just arrived by car and quickly showed us around. Indeed he could speak english well, however he was very busy and couldn't stay long. When he asked us if we have any questions, I answered no because I thought I would see him later again (some online reviews wrote that the owner would explain the dinner to them and gave them suggestions for sightseeing). However we didn't saw him again during the rest of our stay, and the family / staff couldn't speak english at all, so we couldn't ask any questions. It was not a problem or anything since we could have used google translator for important things, but I was too shy to ask them anything ^^'''. The family / staff was extremely lovely though, even if we couldn't communicate much, you could feel that they care a lot about their guests!

Cute neko in the garden *o*

It was only 2 hours until dinner time, so we just stayed in the room and waited for it. During this time I could already experience something truly japanese: freezing. Even if Japan is a very developed first world country, there is something that they don't have, and that is insulation and central heating. And in addition to that, the ryokan was a traditional japanese house, meaning the walls and windows were even thinner and air was blowing through every gap. We had a gas heater that could bring the temperature up to 20°C, though since it was gas (you could literally see the gas flame in it) we couldn't run it the whole night, and as soon as we would turn it of, the temperature would go down pretty quickly again. In the morning it was 8°C in our room, and while we did had very thick bed sheets, at some point in the night I might or might not have googled if there would be any free hotel rooms as I didn't wanted to freeze for a second night (our 2nd night was much warmer though since we turned on the heater in the floor and room next to us as well).

But now it was time for the dinner first and OMG it was sooo amazing! It was a traditional japanese meal, everything was homemade and mostly vegetarian. My favorite dish was probably the homemade Natto (usually slimy fermented soy beans, though theirs wasn't slimy at all) with crispy Yuba (soy milk skin that can also be deep fried). Though everything tasted amazing!

In the evening we went to the onsen which was a red wine onsen (but they didn't pured in a bottle of red wine; it was made from some red wine salt). It made your skin really soft.

Even if I barely slept that night I woke up quite early, and usually when you stay at a temple ryokan, you can also attend a morning ceremony at the temple. However we decided against it, because it was freezing cold, and you would have to climb up a mountain in the darkness at 5:30 am, plus we didn't even knew exactly where the temple was. So we waited until breakfast, which was traditional again and also very delicious.

Afterwards we wanted to visit Kuonji, the main temple for the holy mountain Minobu (in buddhism, some mountains are seen as holy and are worshipped by certain buddhist sects). In order to reach it you were supposed to use the "staircase of enlightment", which had 300 huge, steep and uneven steps. Surprisingly I wasn't dying at all when I reached the top, I only had problems with my blood sugar, because it was too early in the morning and my body is not used to sport xD. On the top was a big temple with several buildings. It was really beautiful and had an amazing atmosphere. There was also a monk that was loudly praying with a drum, and he didn't stop for the whole 3 hours we stayed there! When we entered the buildings, a monk saw us and told us to wait. Then he ran away as fast as he could! We were confused and thought we did something wrong, but then he came back with some pamplets in english with information about the temple.

The staircase of enlightment with cedar trees
One side of the temple

It was also possible to drive to the very top of Mount Minobu with a cable car, however I'm afraid of hights and also of cable cars, so only my mom went up there. She told me that there was snow and that you could take a glimse of Mount Fuji!

Then we wanted to leave the temple, but this time we choose a small path next to the stairs. At the bottom is a short walk lined with beautiful huge trees. I was so amazed by them that I felt the urge to hug one :D. Later I read online that these were 1000 year old cedar trees?!

We also were hungry and searched for a restaurant to have lunch. We found one which served traditional soba and udon.

After lunch we wanted to see more temples. Minobu is very small and not very famous, so there was not a lot of information online about it. On google maps I saw that there were tons of temples and shrines, but in reality many were just some statues or tiny houses. In search of something to do we went up and down the one street of the small village so often that we already felt bad and had fear that people would see us and wonder what we were doing there ^^''''. Funnily the village is so small, it has only one street, no supermarket, but tons of Omiyage (souvenir) shops. One of the houses also had a dog on a leash outside with a sign that the dog loves petting. Of course we pet the super cute dog (sorry no picture) *o*

Many houses were decorated with cabbage flowers. I find them very beautiful!

Actually my mom bought some Omiyage from the top of the mountain, so we decided to sit on a bench in the sun and eat the cookies. After a while I was kinda bored and wanted to go back to the ryokan to wait for dinner. However it was much colder inside than outside but we didn't wanted to go down and up the steep hill again, so we stayed and just turned the heater on ^^'''.

On the next day we left the ryokan quite early in the morning after breakfast, and on our way to the bus station we had a surprising experience: there were monkeys everywhere! I was a little scared at first, but the monkeys run away as soon as they saw us.

Can you find the monkey? *o* (The other ones ran away too fast to snap a picture of them)

Thank you for reading~ <3

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