Ishiba Ryokan is a 1879 family-run traditional guesthouse located a few blocks away from the castle ground. The wooden house felt cosy and much bigger from the inside because of the labyrinth of hallways and staircases. Everything around us felt like it belonged in the turn of the century world, preserved in their original conditions. Although Ishiba was not actually a samurai family, it felt like we were staying in an old samurai house. There was even a wooden bridge at the waiting area near the entrance.
When we came back from the Hirosaki Castle, Mr. Soujiro Ishiba had been waiting to show us our room. Our luggages had been carried and placed in the small entrance area of our room. It was always like this when we spend the night at a Japanese traditional room; since the room floor was covered with tatami, we cannot wheel in our luggages because it would destroy the tatami. So, all traditional rooms in hotels usually have entrance areas with tiled floors, and we place our wheeled luggages there.
Our room was located in the back of the compound, on the second floor. It was a big room with a wooden mesh sliding gate and tatami floor. We had our own terrace that overlooks the side garden. The terrace was divided from the main room with paper screens. And there was a storage space that held our futon beds. The room was perfect for the five of us.
After relaxing a bit in our room, the girls wanted to try out the ryokan’s onsen. When we came back from our walk at Hirosaki Castle Park, Mr. Ishiba told us about it, and that he’d just turned on the water. “Girls first, boys second”, he said. “I’ll be back at 8 and take you guys to town for dinner”.
Thalia will be telling the story about the onsen…
Hi, this is Thalia… So, the four of us — the girls — grabbed our towels and yukata, and headed down to the first floor to where the onsen was. Hanging on the door of the onsen was a sign saying: Ladies. Since the ryokan only has one onsen, we had to share it with the boys. So, there was a flippable sign with Ladies on one side and Gents on the other. And whenever we were using the onsen, we had to hang the gender sign accordingly to avoid boys from coming in unexpectedly.
Other than the sign, there was also a How To Do Onsen poster that explained rules and manners to obey while in a public onsen.
Since we’ve done public onsen when we were in Kawanami, we were quite familiar with the rules. Although because we were the only ones who were using the onsen at the time, we got to take a few pictures before we dipped in.
Unlike the one in Kawanami, where they used natural materials like slates and rocks, here in Ishiba, the onsen looked more similar to the public onsen in the cities, with white or bluish green tiles. It looks a lot brighter.
And the water temperature was not as hot as the onsen in Kawanami… maybe because Hirosaki weather was not as cold as it was back in Hokkaido? Aina loved it, though. She could get used to the water temperature easily, and was very content being under the water. Ari, who took the bath later after the girls were done, thought the water wasn’t hot enough, though. He liked it cooking 🙂
While the girls took their baths, I went downstairs for a cigarette at the waiting area near the wooden bridge. I realized that a large area of the first floor was occupied by the dining area beside the garden. Grandma Ishiba came out to say hello from the kitchen behind the reception room. Too bad we did not plan to have dinner at the ryokan. But I think, next time we stay here, we will opt for the dining plan too.
Ishiba-San was kind enough to drop us off at the Kadare Yokocho with his car. It wasn’t that far away from the ryokan, and had many dining choices in one place. After circling around the Yokocho, we decided to go for the yakitori place called Roche. Yummm…
Afterwards, as we were on our way back, we decided to stop by a place called Mother Leaf just around the corner for desert. Despite the name, it looked like your typical fancy desert place in bigger cities. We ordered some tea and waffles with fruits which was perfect for ending our evening at Hirosaki city.
We walked back to the ryokan, located about four blocks away. When we got in, our futons have already been prepped by our host. How nice of them!
Other entries of this trip is at Hokkaido Trip Summer 2015.
Today’s Giant Caplico: Coffee Caplico!
Today’s Cutout Photos: