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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Ryokan Wakaba わかば

Stayed 21.03.2014 (1 night)
Booked via Booking.com


Although there is a decent number of accommodation options in Kurokawa Onsen, most of them are small scale and do not have many rooms available. Therefore it is advisable to book early especially when this hidden gem is receiving more media attention over the years. Ryokan Wakaba is located nearest to the main bus stop and is less than 5 mins walk to the main hot spring street. You can also request staffs to pick you up at the bus stop if given prior notice. 

Hospitality: A traditional Japanese two storey building, Wakaba is a small scale family run ryokan with only 15 rooms. The immense hospitality showed by the staff here made me felt at ease during my stay. Everyone here serve you with a smile on their faces, regardless of the type of tasks they are handling. As we were brought into our room. the attendant tried her best to explain the features of the hotel (in Japanese mixed with a few simple English words) with hand gestures. Despite us feeling tired after a long bus ride which we took from Mt Aso, we were thoroughly brightened up by her enthusiasm and friendly personality. During meals, the attendant also gave his very best to describe every dish that was served to us despite the language barrier between us. To me, these are the little gestures that will leave memorable impression in people's mind and most importantly, attract guests to come back again.

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Highlights:


Facilities: Booked a twin sharing room, with half board included, at 15,750 yen/pax. Room has a toilet but no bathroom. However, this was not an issue since we utilized the communal bath house offered by the ryokan. Each guest will also get his/her own set of Yukata, towels, socks and toiletries. One habit that I have made (to the point it has become a ritual after multiple trips to Japan) when staying in a ryokan is to first make myself a pot of green tea and enjoy the snacks before heading for my first soak. There is a small shop near the front desk where guests can grab local made/produced souvenirs before departing. 


Hot spring: Two bathhouses are separated by gender. Each bathhouse has a indoor and an open air pool. I prefer the open air hot spring pool (also known as "Rotenburo") where one can catch a glimpse of Chikugo river. At one corner of the pool, the depth is reduced allowing one to lie down while soaking in the hot spring waters - quite a comfortable experience!

Apart from the communal pools, Wakaba also has several private hot spring bathrooms which guests can reserve at no additional charges. We did try out one but the temperature was just too hot for us to even put our legs in. Hot spring water is mildly acidic and source temperature is as high as 60 degC. It is known for curing cuts and burns, and also beneficial to those with skin problems or gynecological illnesses.


Meals. Japanese style multi course dinner was served in our room. The highlight of the meal was horse meat sashimi (Basashi) - a local delicacy in Kumamoto Prefecture. The thinly sliced marbled meat was not chewy like what I anticipated it to be. For me, it felt like eating any other tuna sashimi and definitely not something that I will crave for. The sumptuous dinner also comprised of mouth watering grilled kuro wagyu beef, skin crisp salt grilled yamame trout, tender braised pork belly, yasai tempura and seasonal fruit mousse cake. Overall, I will give a thumb up for the entire dinner course. Had our breakfast in the main dining hall - rice was served with salted salmon, tamago, pickled vegetables, fresh salad and tofu soup.  


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Ryokan Wakaba わかば
869-2402 熊本県阿蘇郡南小国町黒川温泉
http://www.ryokanwakaba.com/



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Video: Found this excellent Youtube video featuring Ryokan Wakaba.

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