Izu Hokkawa Onsen Bousui: A Heavenly Onsen in Japan,
Japanese Inns (Ryokan) Are the Destination!
My first experience at Bousui was just 5 years ago and then the second was last month. In 2006 I was a newbie exploring the Hokkawa Hot Spring district , in 2014 it was my second visit as a devoted fan of hot spring perfection wanting to share this haven with my life partner and best friend.
We took the Shinkansen from Tokyo station to Atami station and then switched trains to a local train JR Ito line which took us to IzuHokkawa station. I wrote about this onsen and the perfect level of Japanese Omotenashi Hospitality here in my last book “33 More Reasons to Be Proud” and since one of Bousui’s clients had alerted them to my chapter, I was happily surprised to see that part of the book displayed prominently on their website. More surprising was the VIP treatment they gave us from the moment we stepped off the train onto the aged wooden platform at IzuHokkawa station.
We stepped off the train and right there on the platform was our Bousui driver waiting to take our bags and lead us to the vehicle for our short to one of my favorite bits of heaven in this beautiful Land of the Rising Sun.
A thin, winding drive took us past fishing boats bobbing in choppy surf festooned with tightly rolled nets, rusted and long forgotten vacation homes built during Japan’s bubble time of opulence known as the Japanese “Economic Miracle”, shuttered ice cream shops waiting for the onset of Summer and the smiling children after the cool of delicious “Soft Cream” available all over Japan from June to August.
From ancient days, Ryokan was a place to Rest. We need this more than Ever.
Our visit was during the quiety, lazy times of early June so we were missing the summer rush and all the more happy with the silence and bareness of this sleepy town.
Pulling up at the entrance to Bousui, it is hard to imagine we’ve just climbed a hill and am now entering the Japanese Inn at floor 7. That is, until you step through the sweetly smelling wooden-framed lobby, remove your shoes on the cool tiled floor, slip into indoor-slippers and glide over the huge beige carpet to a glass encased coffee room designed to jut out over the sea and give you a feel of oneness with the ocean, sky, horizon and wind.
On brightly Moonlit nights, Bousui is one of the rare places in Japan where you can catch a “Moon Road” shining on the sea. In fact, the Ryokan owner consigned a professional musician to compose a rhapsody of sweetly inspiring music to herald the moon road and all the joyous nature in clear view from this, your perch atop the Pacific.
There is something special about a simply constructed building that has oneness with nature as its utmost goal. The ceiling to floor windows are the lookout over the expansive sea, the light greens, oranges and beige in the interior make for a traditional comfort that will lull you into a deeper sensitivity for thought and intensify your attention to the outside view.
We sat there for 20 to 30 minutes sipping warm tea. Ushered with a kind explanation of where the baths are, the history of the building and our menu for the evening, we again found ourselves peering our over the grand Pacific from our room. We watched fishing boats chug by, wondering what they accessed under this rich sea, thought about how the rain over distant Oshima might be heading our way, observed the changing colors in the clouds as the sun set, noticing the crows and seagulls as they flew over the evening ocean and lounged back on soft Zabuton pillows in our room heavy with the warm scent of tatami. It was a perfect moment of gratitude and reflection. How lucky we are to be alive and be able to drink in the peace of this, most perfect day.
Japanese Inns have a way of affecting you. The pace is easy…arrive, go to your room, take a bath, eat your fill and sleep. There is very little interruption or canned amusement going on in a traditional Japanese Inn. Maybe from days long past, since these locations were not for entertainment but for rest, the act of restful hospitality has been perfected. No one is going to pass you a complicated menu or ask you to transcribe passport details or address upon your arrival. The food is usually decided by the package you have ordered in advance included in your rate and your accommodation will be fitted perfectly for rest.
Comfortable Japanese futon on a tatami mat floor. Ability to make the room perfectly dark, tea and water on hand to keep you hydrated and always, always the quiet of a secret garden getaway to heal and revive you.
I remember a similar rustic quiet in the mountains of Wyoming during a family trip to a ranch, I think of waves hitting sand outside my tent during beach camping in my home, Hawaii and then, I think now of how I can access that same solace with a quick train ride to one of the countless Ryokan getaways in Japan. For me, a lover of ocean, Bousui will always be my favorite.
When you look at the pricing you may feel it high. You will be tempted to stay in cheaper accommodation to save money for exploring the area and visiting spots of interest. But, the thing about Ryokan, the Ryokan IS the spot of interest for that area. The architecture, the food, the room itself, the furniture, the futon, the various baths, the cultured Omotenashi hospitality; there is no need to step outside and find Japanese culture elsewhere. This is it. This is the epitome of a Japanese experience.
Pay the 20,000 to 50,000 yen per person fee and trust me, you will see how this experience in and of itself will remain with you as Your Japan for a lifetime.
Former Deep Japan Writer