Days 7 & 8

Sorry for not posting yesterday; we were out of town. Haha, well, outside of Osaka anyway. We went to a nice hot spring resort in Kobe for the night… it was great! The photo gallery for these two days makes it look like all we have done is eat… and I guess that is pretty much all we have done lol.. besides relaxing, but that makes for boring pictures.

Day 7 started out, as usual, in Osaka. Hiro invited us to lunch at the okonomiyaki restaurant he works at in Umeda. Okonomiyaki is another “cook it yourself” type of food that is quite popular here. It is often referred to as a Japanese pancake, but it is nothing like a pancake in my opinion.

The chefs mix up bowls of batter, cabbage, and whatever ingredients you have chosen. The bowls are brought to your table where you cook them on the griddle, and then cover them in a sauce and top it off with  mayonnaise. There are also some other various side items you can order to go along with it.

We offered some suggestions and then left the ordering up to Hiro, since he is of course more familiar with it than we are. We couldn’t believe the amount of food he ordered! He ordered three types of okonomiyaki… seafood, cheese, and curry. He also ordered some, hmm… how to put this… cow parts covered in some kind of spicy sauce, some strange jelly type stuff, yakisoba noodles wrapped in egg, and a daikon salad.

The cheese version, strangely named “American” was definitely the winner. I can’t tell you how awesome okonomiyaki is!  Sean also really enjoyed the curry version (named Indian) but even he thought the cheese was still the best. The seafood mix (named Japan) one was okay… but it had nothing on the cheese and curry versions. Hopefully we can find our way back and have some more later!

After our huge lunch we took a bus to Arima Onsen, which is a small town in Kobe. The main part of the city is on the opposite side of the mountain, so Arima has a very small-town feel to it. We did a little exploring today before coming home… it was kind of neat to be outside of a big city for a change, although the narrow streets were kind of scary.

The resort was wonderful. After checking in they let me choose a yukata… there were so many to choose from! A yukata is like a cotton kimono that is meant to be worn in the summer, at festivals, and places like hot springs. Most traditional hotels offer them to their guests, who wear them around the hotel and around town.

As we came in we knew right away that the service would be impeccable. They refused to let us carry our own bags, showed us around the room, and immediately served hot tea at the dining table in our room. There was also a small note in English that thanked us for staying with them, and a small thank you gift as well. Our room was incredibly nice, and consisted of an entryway to remove shoes, a small toilet room, a nice bathroom, a large tatami mat room, and a small sitting area beyond that. The large tatami room in a traditional hotel is a multi-purpose room that serves as a dining area and sleeping area; the futons being stored in a closet until they are needed.

We spent some time relaxing in the room, enjoying the mountain views and having foot massages by the hotel’s staff masseuse. The foot massage timing couldn’t have been better, as dinner arrived just as he was finishing.

The dinner was huge! It consisted of several courses of traditional foods, the main dish being Kobe beef that we cooked ourselves on tiny grills. We were also given a small note congratulating us on our marriage. This was our first encounter with “strange foods” and some of them didn’t really suit our western palates… but all in all it was still a great experience and the beef was awesome!

After dinner we spent more time relaxing, and then watched as our room was transformed from a dining area to a sleeping area in a matter of minutes. It was interesting watching the staff lay out the futons, as they seem to have it down to a science.

We scheduled some private time in one of the hotel’s open-air baths, which was wonderful. I wish we could have had more time with that. We disrobed in the little changing area and then stepped outside. The bathing area was surrounded by a fence for privacy, with bamboo growing all around. The bathing area was basically a large stone and bamboo tub of hot water with a bubbling fountain in the middle. The night was beautiful, and a little chilly, so it made bathing in the hot water all the better. You will forgive us if we don’t post pictures of that!

It was then back to the room for sleep, and then up early this morning. Once again the room was quickly transformed back into a dining area, and a huge meal was served. The meal was again traditional foods, and although some of them were a bit odd to us it was actually a pretty tasty meal.

We are now back in Osaka, and I already kind of miss the quiet of Arima. But oh well, maybe we will find another hot spring resort before the end of the trip.

Once we returned to Osaka, we came back to the apartment with the intention of waiting for the sun to go down before heading back to the Umeda Sky Building… unfortunately it began to rain though. We did however ride the ferris wheel on top of the Hep Five building, but we didn’t take photos because of the rain. Before the ferris wheel we had shabu shabu for dinner at an all you can eat place. Shabu shabu is yet another cook it yourself dish that involves thinly sliced beef and veggies cooked in hot water at your table. It wasn’t really the best shabu shabu though, so we will have to do it again later. This place was more aimed at quantity over quality… still not bad, but it was not nearly as awesome as it could be.