If you are ever in Japan, do consider spending a night over an Edo style ryokan (旅館) for a unique Japanese home stay experience.
The one my travel mates and I chose was Nanten En, located in Amami. We slotted our ryokan stay towards the last day of our week there so that we won't be so adventurous to the Kansai International Airport. Getting there is easy, if you're from KIX, there are 4 different train routes you can take (all praises to Japanese public transportation system) that would land you to Amami station. The ryokan is just next to the train station, we arrived when it was pitch black (mind you, it was only 7pm that time, autumn in Japan has shorter daytime) and we still managed to find our way to the inn, it's that near.
We were greeted with the warmest welcome from the inn keepers and they showed us to our room after confirming our earlier reservation. If you wish to have your saiseki dinner, you would have to show up by 6pm (last call). There are no convenience stall within walking distance in Amami, so your option is pretty limited, either buy your supplies when you're in town, or enjoy the Japanese dinner in the room.
We were pretty lucky as they still take in order when we arrived. We opted for a hot pot with generous slices of pork from black pigs and fresh local vegetables to complement all the meat. The inn keeper that took our order is well versed in both Japanese and English, so not that much of language barriers to order what you want.
The dining table was in the center of the tatami matted room, and we were first served with hot tea and welcoming sweet appetizer. The kaiseki we had also included sashimi, fresh cuts of salmon & tuna, a joy to the palate. The soup is flavoured with miso, and the broth that was infused with the goodness from the pork and vegetable has its taste still resonates on my taste bud till today (too much info?). And hot sake, perfect combination need I say?
What is a ryokan without donning the yukata? Provided for the guests, the yukata is a complimentary outfit which we wore throughout our stay there.
As the night kicks in after the awesome dinner, we couldn't go for further sight seeing as it was pitch black and freezing cold outside. Another must have experience when you're in Japan, is of course the onsen. The hot spring bath is said to be medicinal and rejuvenating, which to a certain extend I do agree after the whole day of walking, a relaxing bath is all I need.
Nanten En's onsen is not an outdoor hot spring bath where you can bath with snow monkeys, but non the less adequate enough for the hot bath experience. Proper etiquette of onsen needed to be adhered, including showering before entering and the small towel must not immerse into the bath water. To be perfectly frank, there's no one who is watching, so even if you don't exactly follow the rules 100%, you will not be penalized (as long as you're not caught that is).
When we were done with our onsen, our room was already made with the futon for the night, the dining table miraculously disappeared and replaced with the futons.
The next morning, before our breakfast, we took the opportunity for a morning onsen bath, complemented with the morning breeze, it was truly refreshing to say the least. The breakfast we ordered was a traditional Japanese breakfast with rice, fish and soup.
We then went for a shutterbug spree around before packing up to Osaka again. Nanten En is truly a home stay experience that was worth every yen spent. All in all, we paid approximately 27,000 yen (about RM250 per person - there were 4 of us, for the night) for the room and 39,000-ish yen (RM300-ish per person, party of 4) for the kaiseki , sake & the breakfast.
Next trip to Japan, if possible, I would want to venture into a more remote, exquisite ryokan for a different experience. But if you're in Osaka, do give Nanten En a try :)
158 Amami, Kawachinagano-shi, Osaka, 586-0062, Japan
TEL:0721-68-8081, (International:+81-721-68-8081), FAX:0721-68-8012
Check-in 15:00p.m. , Check out 10:00a.m.
By train : Suggested routes by Google Maps. Please do your research before hand as the train map might not be that easy to read in Japan. Just saying :)