Sunday, April 30, 2017

Chugoku Sanyo, San-in 中国地方山陽、山陰 - Yuda Onsen Kokian 湯田温泉 古稀庵

Stayed 25.04.2015 (Sat)
Reserved thru'
Room 206 Kirinso 麒麟草; three person with half board = 34,560 yen/pax

Most luxurious. Being one of the most popular hot spring town in Yamaguchi Prefecture, there were numerous accommodation options to choose from here in Yuda Onsen. Had in mind to avoid more touristy or commercialised hotels/ryokans and eventually landed on Kokian after some research. With only 16 rooms available, it met my first criteria of not being too crowded. Having said that, this would mean that I have to pay a much higher price to enjoy this privilege. Indeed, based on the price per night stay here, I will classify Kokian as a luxury or high end accommodation. Was contemplating whether I should splurge on an expensive stay while on the other hand, I was deeply attracted to the overall concept of Kokian depicted on its homepage. Eventually, my desire fueled my decision and I chalked up the most pricey stay in Yuda Onsen in this Chugoku episode. I have to say that Kokian lived up to expectations (and price of course) and what I found best about Kokian is how they managed to create this secluded setting despite being surrounded by major roads, other high rise hotels and residential buildings.

Omotenashi. Right from the moment we met the ryokan staff at Yuda Onsen JR Station, we were already showered by the strong omentonashi spirit displayed by Japanese. A well groomed man who was in his sixties and extremely eloquent in English came to pick us up at the train station. Upon arrival, we were warmly welcomed by a lady staff who was already waiting for us at the entrance. The lounge was spacious and has a japanese western outlook. Warm towel was handed over to us and kombu tea was served while check-in procedure was proceeded smoothly. As usual, we were given a brief introduction of the facilities the hotel was equipped with, questions such as what our preferred dinning timings were for both meals and whether we had any dietary allergies were asked. Upon request, they also helped to reserve this 1 hour course sightseeing taxi (a collaboration between Yuda Onsen Ryokan Association and local taxi) for the next morning which we utilised to visit Rurikoji Pagoda 瑠璃光寺五重塔 and liaise with the staff of Gyokusenkaku (the accommodation we stayed on the following day) to pick us up from Nagato Yumoto JR Station in the late afternoon. This additional service is something that I am extremely appreciative of. One other scene I could vividly recall happened after our departure from Kokian. After we checked out of the ryokan, the staff drove us to the nearest bus stop to catch the bus heading for Akiyoshidou 秋芳洞. When the bus passed by Kokian, we were surprised to see two staff (including the well groomed uncle who chauffeured us on both days) stood by and waving to bade farewell to us!

Room. We were assigned to the room named Kirinso 麒麟草 located on the second floor of a separate building connected to the lobby via a sheltered walkway. Rooms on the ground floor, which are steeper in price, has a small pool extended in front of the patio - suitable for families with kids to play in. Room has both western and Japanese elements incorporated into its design. There are two double beds and for the third person and above, futons are placed on a tatami laid section of the room. There is a living room where an electrically operated fireplace, three-seater sofa, reclining armchair and coffee machine counter were spaciously arranged. The patio became my favourite spot in the room as I could enjoy the cool weather while relaxing on the rattan furniture here. Every room has a dedicated outdoor hot spring tub connected to the shower room, - this was where I had the luxury to enjoy a morning soak in my own private space before heading for breakfast. One other noteworthy mention was the high quality of fabrics used on the covers of sofa, cushions and blanket which were so smooth and comfortable to touch.

Hot spring. There are two bathhouses separated by gender named Karugamo (for gents) and Mimizu (for ladies). Each bathhouse has both indoor and outdoor section, and the size of the pools are way more spacious than I thought considering this is a boutique style accommodation. Adore the landscaping in the rotenburo (outdoor pool) where aesthetically pleasant water features such as water wall, stoned lined pool, etc were utilised. After an unwinding soak in the hot spring, guests can help themselves to ice-cream, cans of soft drink, calpis and green tea stored in the bar fridge located in the common resting area. There is also a foot bath situated just outside the main lobby building facing the huge grass carpeted compound. The water gushing out from the sources of Yuda Onsen is colourless and alkaline hot spring waters and can reach a maximum of 72 degC. Due to its alkaline nature, the hot spring waters nourishes and beautifies the skin. Apart from this therapeutic effect, it has been used to treat ailments such as neuralgia, muscle pain, joint pain and recovery from exhaustion.

Extravagant meals. The greatest highlight of my stay at Kokian has got to be its extraordinary and exquisite meals prepared by the chef. I am honoured to have witness/experience for myself a masterly display of culinary skills and plating techniques by the kitchen to create a line up of dishes that intrigued my senses throughout the entire course of meal. This was truly an unforgettable dinning experience!

- Nakachoko 中猪口: Pickled wasabi with grilled yuba mochi (tofu skin), which is meant to be a palate cleanser dish.  
- Appetiser 前菜: Shrimp, fish pickled with nanban sauce, vegetable and salmon maki, broad bean, carrot castella.
- Sashimi 造里: Tiger prawn, sea bream, maguro, flounder, amberjack, squid and white clam. The small cube of maguro was the best out of all and it literally "melted" in my mouth. 
- Oshinogi お凌ぎ: Three vegetable nigiri sushi - bamboo shoot, ginger and hanakori 花っこりー, a hybrid between choy sum and broccoli cultivated in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The term "oshinogi" is something new to me. After some research, I found out it means food to surpass hunger and is usually one of the first few dishes served at the start of the kaiseki course.

- Nimono (stewed dish) 煮物: Tender stewed pork with potato sauce.
- Suimono 小吸物: Clear broth soup infused with the sweetness of sea urchin (or uni) and leek.
- Nabemono (hot pot) 鍋物: Soy milk hot pot with ingredients such as sea bream, scallop, squid, John Dory, lettuce, potherb mustard (suzuna), Shimeji mushroom, Shiitake mushroom, Enoki mushroom, carrot and onion.

- Agemono (fried dish) 揚げ物: Fried tempura of Japanese whiting, fiddlehead greens and young corn.
- Sunomono (vingeared dish) 酢の物: Thinly sliced anago served with cucumber wave garnish, wakame seaweed and ginger. There was one joke which arose to this dish. In the menu, the kanji for this dish was written as 蛇腹 (pronounced as "jabara"). In Mandarin, it means snake stomach and I was startled thinking that there was snake meat in it! After clarifying with the waiter, I realized it was referring to the wave like decorative cutting of the cucumber garnish.
- Yosara (western dish) 洋皿: Yuda roast wagyu beef tenderloin.
- Tomewan (last dish served with rice and tsukemono) 留椀: Shijimi clams in red miso paste soup.
- Kanmi (sweets) 甘味: Scoop of handmade ice-cream.

Typical Japanese style breakfast was served on the following morning - grilled fish being the main dish. Ended my meal with a delicious piece of mille crepe cake, accompanied with coffee/tea. Yet another moment of indulgence!


Yuda Onsen Kokian 湯田温泉 古稀庵
〒753-0056 山口県山口市湯田温泉2-7-1
Contact number: (+81)083-920-1810

How to get there?
(1) By foot. About 10 minutes walk from Yuda Onsen JR Station 湯田温泉駅.


Video: An introductory video on Kokian.

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