Ryokan Experience in Otaru

As mentioned in my previous post, Alan and I ended our Hokkaido trip with a one night stay in a modern ryokan in Otaru, and it turned out to be the best part of our trip. When we checked in around 5pm in the afternoon, we wasted no time soaking our aching bodies in our private onsen right outside our guest room. Before getting into the onsen though, we needed to thoroughly bathe ourselves in their public baths outside the guest room, as part of their etiquette. Although our guest room had its own bathing area, we were not allowed to use it during the wintertime to prevent the pipes from freezing. Their public baths were extremely clean and virtually empty, so it was not too much of an inconvenience to bathe there.

After about 45 minutes in our onsen,, we needed a break as the heat was making me a little dizzy. Perfect timing though, as we were scheduled to have our 11 course kaiseki served in our room at 7:00pm.

At precisely 7:00pm, our kaiseki dinner arrived, and it took several trips for our nice server to bring all the dishes into our room. She was very focused as she prudently arranged everything neatly in front of us, explaining in a low, gentle voice what each item was.

We were beyond satisfied with the quality of the food, and savored every last bite. The sake that was included was definitely not enough though, so we ordered extra. 🙂

We finished the dinner in about 1.5 hours and as much as we wanted to enjoy the onsen some more, the sake had us half asleep already. After clearing the dishes out, the staff from the ryokan turned around our guest room to make us tatami beds in the same exact spot where we had dinner.

Now I don’t quite know if our tatami beds were super comfortable, or if the onsen relaxed our bodies, or if we had a little too much sake, but we slept tremendously well that night. Really, really well. We woke up around 7:30am the next morning, and jumped right back into our onsen. To our absolute delight, snowflakes began drifting softly from the sky right onto our faces. Honestly, words cannot describe how magical it was…..being in the onsen surrounded by a white blanket of snow. We knew we would remember this experience forever.

It felt like we were inside a scene straight from a movie. Tranquil setting, with a sea of white enclosing us…purely idyllic and surreal. It’s one of those moments that you wish you can preserve forever. I was thankful to be sharing such an enchanting moment with my hubby.

Our growling stomaches was a good reminder for us that breakfast was waiting. We put on our yukatas and headed to the ryokan’s restaurant, where we found ourselves seated at a table with the most soothing, magnificent view.

As much as we wanted to stay at Kourakuen forever, all good things must come to an end. Shortly after breakfast, we packed our luggages once again and checked out. Before heading back to Sapporo for our late afternoon flight, we made a pitstop at this small ice museum to check out their ice slide.

Left: Me, on the Kids' slide | Right: Alan huddled inside an igloo
Alan coming down the bigger slide!

We were disappointed at the ice museum, for it was very tiny, and you can basically finish touring it in 15 minutes. The ice slide was fun, but if you’re looking for something to get your adrenaline soaring, then you better look elsewhere. We shopped a little more before finding a small local soba shop for our last meal in Otaru.

Couldn't resist making a snow angel, reminiscent of my good ole childhood days in Idaho

Good bye Otaru! We’ll definitely be back, and next time, we will be sure to rent a car so that we wouldn’t be trudging through the snow like this…


  1. Ah I love this post! That picture of Alan in the hot tub is the epitome of “blissed out.” I have a coffee table book that features the Ryokan of Japan. When I eventually do get there, they are definitely where I would love to stay vs a modern hotel. Thanks for all of the pictures.

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