My previous posts on Okayama:

  1. Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter
  2. Affordable shopping
  3. Kojima
  4. Kojima Jeans Street

 

Ok before I start the post you’ll have to bear with my many portrait shots. I mean I couldn’t remember the last time I had so many to choose from that I didn’t immediately delete. I’m at this stage where it’s almost too awkward to have my photos taken alone.

Hiruzen Kogen

Haha long time no pose.

Hiruzen Kogen is located in Maniwa (真庭 ) city, Okayama prefecture. Maniwa is home to a great number of natural island and riverside hot springs. Hiruzen Kogen is one of its natural attraction, famous for mountain climbing in summer time and alpine sports in winter.

But in autumn?

Enjoy the stunning autumn scene!

Look at how different it looks between summer time and autumn! A complete opposite of hues. I am at KImendai Observation Deck, a rest area located halfway along the Hiruzen Daisen Skyline with a vast view of stunning fall colors of the mountains.

 

There are many things you can do in Hiruzen Highland, including horseback riding, milking at Hiruzen Jerseyland, river trekking and more!

Shirakaba No Oka Restaurant 白樺の丘

This is more than just a lunch place. You can make your own soba for lunch here!

If you have a couple of hours to spare, this is quite a fun experience. You can make soba noodle here from scratch, and I was really surprised at how simple it was – just mix water with half soba flour and half wheat flour and knead.

I wonder if we could make this at home!

Roll it really really thin, the thinner the better for soba.

And then cut it into even strips. Obviously with my skill, some are likely to turn into waist belts.

Tadaaaaa. #CheesieMade soba noodle lol. I feel like it’s more like panmee!!😂

The staff will then bring it back to kitchen to cook, so you can have yourself comfortably seated for your hand-made lunch 😛

My “panmee”, of course they won’t serve you just that, but a whole lot of other stuff. “Okawa” -steamed sticky rice and other small dishes. #CheesieMade soba was really really good! 😀

You can also make ice cream with just these few things (and salt and ice that’s not seen in this photo). Amazing right? It just requires a good 20 minutes of rolling back and forth haha.

 

Hiruzen Winery

While you are in Hiruzen, stop by Hiruzen Winery if you are a wine person. And it actually uses wild crimson glory vine grapes right here from Hiruzen for their wine! Talk about supporting the local! Made in Japan wine ^^

There’s a cozy space as a cafe where you can enjoy cheese together with wine and have a relaxing time up in the highland.

You also get to test all kinds of wines, liquor and sparkling for free or for a small fee of 200 yen. By the way when you see the kanji word “有料” (Yuuryou), and if you happen to be Cantonese, please remember that it is not the opposite of 冇料 as in 冇料到 lolol. Before you get excited that these labelled wine are super qualified like 有啲料到, 有料 simply means that it is not free, or chargeable. The opposite is 無料, which doesn’t sound very nice cuz it feels like 没有内涵 liddis haha. When you see this word you should be happy because that means “free of charge”.

Hai. You are welcome.

Yeap. This super special Liquid Jewel is 有料.

Please try their soft serve!!!!! It’s made of wild grape that’s used to make the wine, and I love it so much!!

I was warned that it’s very sour. I love my sour stuff so it was one of the best soft serves I’ve had. And I don’t even like soft serves!

 

Yubara Onsen Village

I was really looking forward to writing this part of the post as I think it’s the highlight of my Okayama experience!

I’m not sure why this place is not more popularly known (granted, Japan has waaaaay too many great onsen), because, look at that stunning view!

Again I’m so thankful to feel extra lucky – Japan always welcomes me with its best seasonal surprises. It was one of the most beautiful autumn scenes for me at Yubara Onsen.

Traditional ryokan lined up along the hot spring river. Yes, the river *IS* a hot spring!! It comes bubbling from below the ground, making this a unique outdoor mixed bath with an amazing view. More on that later.

 

Yubara International Tourist Hotel – Kikunoyu 湯原国際観光ホテル菊の湯

Is the hotel we put a night at, located just a few minutes’ walk from the outdoor hot spring.

Mommy radar lol. My eyes were caught by this cute play area for little kids. An adorably bassinet too! You can have a family trip here!

I know, I know, I empathise with those who are too shy to get into public bath or have tattooes. Mark this ryokan down! It has a Kashikiriburo – Private bath. And that’s not all, it is Gensen Kakenagashi – which means that the spring is 100% free-flow hotspring water directly from the original source.

Did you know? There are many types of onsen, the one in the city especially are not “pure” onsen, as they are very often mixed with water for temperature control, is circulated, filtered or has anything added to it at all. And it is said that there are only less than 5% of the thousands of springs in Japan that are Gensen Kakenagashi! I have been to a few and the most memorable for me was the one (and the first!) I visited in Sendai.

There’s actually a Gensen Kakenagashi Onsen Association in Japan, this i show much Japanese people love hotsprings.

Beautiful yukata for you to choose from! I think it is free of charge, a ryokan staff will even come to your room to help you put it on so that it looks nice and you can take lots of nice photos inside or outside the ryokan! ^^

Yukata is one of the best OOTDs!! I doubt anyone can look bad in it 😀

This is my tatami-style room. Seeing how cozy it is, I am for sure going to have futon in my future Japan house if I ever have one!!

Hotel dinner is kaiseki style as usual, really good food (and a little too much!)

Do keep in mind that kaiseki ryori always comes with rice at the end, despite all these food you see!!!

So please let the staff know that you want less rice or no rice if you think you can’t finish it. Once it is served to you it cannot be served to anyone else, so let them know in advance.

Let us all not waste precious rice! It’s a habit and a promise I’m trying to keep to myself, after a trip to Yamagata and witnessed all the golden, beautiful rice fields, thinking to myself exactly how much of all these farmer’s hardwork goes to waste. Of course we also try not to waste any other food, but I understand each individual has food preference so not everyone can eat everything. But for rice we can at least do something about wastage control! 🙂

Sunayu 砂湯

Sunayu is the name of the outdoor natural hotspring in Yubara onsen. And since it is outdoor, it means that it is it is open 24/7, throughout the year!

 

This is it!!! It’s overlooking a dam by the river You may think… where is the onsen?? Yeap, the river *is* the onsen. Part of the river is surrounded by rocks making it a “bath”.

Do take note that Sunayu is a public mixed bath, meaning that both males and females can use the same hotspring. And for this reason, females are allowed to wear a bathroom which you can rent from your hotels. In our hotel we rented it for 500 yen each.

There’s a little changing space next to the spring for female and male respectively.

There’s no door – just a curtain so it’s really cold. Be very fast with changing!!! Also, we have mistaken the rack for shoes/geta. It’s actually to store your belongings (don’t bring anything valuable if you are worried, as there’s no locker), so please do leave your shoes at the entrance. Paiseh.😅

There’s also a sign that reminds male visitors to cover their lower body with a towel/swim pants cuz the local ojisan like to walk around naked lol.

We woke up 5am just to visit this onsen (as we still gotta go back for breakfast and leave by 8am!). I was surprised that even at 5 there were quite a few visitors at the spring already! Mostly ojisan haha.

So here’s how it looks!

Honestly I won’t recommend photos here for obvious reason, we actually got permission for photoshoot purposes as long as we don’t get any other guests in sight. But the ojisan won’t stop walking around naked so there were quite many pictures photobombed with naked humans. Such as the man at the back. It was ok until…

He stood up.😅 I had to stamp him off the photo.

So yea, I understand that many visitors would love to take some photos especially after traveling all the way here. I mean, LOOK AT THOSE MAPLE FOLIAGE!!!

So I suggest to go REALLY EARLY. Like really really early haha. Or just wait until no one is around before you snap photos. 🙂

I have experienced quite a few natural outdoor hot springs (such as Nyuto Onsen in Akita prefecture. That’s also a must-go! I’m still waiting to blog about it!!), but none as open as this. 開放感が半端ない!

Really like TV commercial haha.

Sailormoon version.

Went back to have our hearty breakfast. I asked for less rice.

Ok lai. Sensei Cheesie teach you simple Japanese

Raisu Sukuname” – less rice.
Raisu chotto” – just a little ricr
NO Raisu” (with both your arms forming an X shape in front of you) – No rice

Simple right? HAHAHA

 

That’s all for this time around. Ending it with a super pretty photo of Yubara Onsen in autumn!

See you in my next post!

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