Asaba Ryokan – Izu Japan

I recently had a chance to stay a night at Asaba Ryokan in Izu Japan, and experience a night of extreme luxury.

My wife and I got lucky and won a prize that took us to Izu via the Green Car (like 1st class) on the Shinkansen, and put us up for the night. Just to put this into perspective, Chirac stayed at this same Ryokan! This ryokan is more than 300 years old, and considered one of the best in the area. In addition, I’ve been in Japan for almost 5 years now, and I think that was the first time I have ever ridden the Green Car. In the picture above the inn itself is on the right. The building on the left is also owned by the inn, but is only used for traditional plays (Noh) on special occasions. This picture was taken from the inns cafe. The cafe has no wall, it opens right out to the lake. I’m no architect, but the effect was incredible.

This is actually part of the hallway to our room. It’s off to the left in this picture.

This is the private bath inside of the inn. First come first served. The bath is filled with 100% natural hot spring water.

This is the open-air spa(露天風呂). The water on the inside of the rocks closest in the picture is hot spring water. The outer rim is a regular lake. I talked to an old naked guy here in the morning. He was nice.

We also had a bath in our room filled with hot spring water as well. There were also two other indoor baths on the premises for men and women respectively.

In one day, we took four baths. Then took two the next morning… Allow me to speak for everyone and say that the only reason anyone really stays in these places is to enjoy the baths and the food. Though not pictured here, the inside of the rooms are very minimalist. Tatami, a large wooden table for eating, large windows, and a small TV stuffed into the corner. While you are in the hot springs taking your bath after dinner, the hotel staff will come into the room and take your futon out of the closet and spread it out for you. So even the futon are completely out of sight during the day. The rooms are almost completely bare. It’s very relaxing.

Breakfast time! In a few days I will post the 2-hour dinner we had in this place. Even though each dish was small, there were so many different things… I could hardly finish.

The town that Asaba Onsen is in is called Shuzenji. There is a temple (called Shuzenji…), hot springs, a short hiking trail, and a lot of shops and Japanese tourists. The town does feel extremely touristy, but it’s not too over the top to be annoying.

A few years ago (okay so 3 years ago now… I’ve been here too long) I went to another Onsen town in Kansai and posted about it, check it out to expand your onsen town knowledge. As in the previous post, there are also a bunch of ashiyu places in this town as well. In the picture above, that little brown hut in the middle of the river is an ashiyu place. We met some young Osaka people there. They were funny.

If you want information on other Japanese Inns to visit, just Google “Japanese Ryokan”, or check out these books as well. Ryokan are pretty expensive, but if you’re coming through Japan I would recommend trying one for at least one night!

The Japanese Spa: A Guide to Japan’s Finest Ryokan and Onsen

Classic Japanese Inns and Country Getaways


– Harvey


Well, what have we here off in the distance? Why it looks like a cafe that might have Western food to satisfy my gaijin needs. I’ll hop over and take a closer look.

Wait, what’s this?

C’omon? Humburger? Beef stake? And… Fast food as a menu item? Aren’t all of these fast food items?

The confusion settles in.

Okay, I got it. See, they spelled Hamburger correctly on the window. It was only a temporary mistake. Steak… Stake! Stake is still messed up. Ah well. Can’t get everything right all of the time.

I’ll go inside and have a hamburger anyway.

Okay, now the question. Which came first. The custom sign they had created for their store, or the preprinted sign with hamburger spelled correctly sitting right next to it.

Oh hum.

– Harvey

I didn’t mention “soft cream” as a mistake for “ice cream”, because… I’ve been in Japan too long.

Becoming Ghetto

There is a restaurant in Yokohama called “GETTO-KA”.

This may be something only I find funny but…

In Japanese, you can put the kanji 「化」after a word, to give it the meaning “to change into” or more simply, “become”. Serious uses of this form include… 「深刻化」which means “to become serious” or “escalation” or “to become aggravated”, and 「都会化」which means “to become city”, or “urbanization”. Another common one is 「高齢化」which refers to “aging”, as in 「高齢化社会」”aging society”.

Now, the kanji for this shop is completely different… But if you pronounce the name, it sounds like… “Becoming Ghetto”.

Geek humor. Laugh!

– Harvey

JLPT Kanji Study Help –

I stumbled across this excellent online tool to study Kanji specifically for the JLPT.

It really is great. It allows you to flip through the Kanji flash cards and mark those you harve already mastered, those you want to review, and so on. It’s never too early to start studying for the JLPT, especially the Kanji portion. If you can make this webpage part of your daily routine… You will go far!

Or, at least you’ll know a heck of a lot of Kanji…

– Harvey

Defending Heisig

Tae Kim over at 3 yen recently said he was skeptic about Heisig’s famous Remembering the Kanji method, and that he wanted to hear from anyone who actually learned how to write Japanese with the system.

I left a comment that I thought would be nice to share with everyone. For I have seen the power of Heisig with my own eyes! I am a believer. Though, I have never tried it myself…

Heisig isn’t meant to teach you vocabulary, it’s meant to teach you how to remember to write individual Kanji characters.

I graduated from IUC this past June. We go through all 1945-ish of the jyoyo kanji, and gobs of related vocabulary throughout the 10 month program at our own pace.

A guy who did Heisig just before starting IUC, was able to finish all 1945 jyoyo kanji in the first quarter of the IUC program. In addition, when it came around to 4th quarter and we were all checking how many we could actually remember how to read and write, he was without a doubt one of the star students.

I wish I had done it, now I have a haphazard way of remembering how to write kanji, and though I can read a ton, my writing is embarrassing sometimes…

Must… do… Heisig…

The anonymous guy I’m discussing, well, to keep him anonymous let’s just refer to him as Joe Sixpack.

But yeah, he was all over the Kanji.

All over it!

– Harvey

Wings of Defeat – Tokko

I saw the Japanese trailer for the kamikaze survivor documentary movie I mentioned a while back, Wings of Defeat. The Japanese title is 特攻 (TOKKO) which literally translates to “special attack”, but in Japan, when speaking about “TOKKO” in the context of WWII, most people will imagine the Kamikaze pilots.

TOKKO official Japanese movie website

Wings of Defeat official English site

I have a scanner now, so I scanned the filer that I picked up at the movie theater recently.

For those who can read Japanese, I’ve linked a larger readable image of the front, and back, of the TOKKO (Wings of Defeat) filer. The back of the flier has tons of text, worth a read if you’re interested.

By the way, the Japanese on the front of the flier translates roughly as… “I wanted to live.” “I didn’t want to die.”

This movie looks really interesting… I’m going to have to drag myself down to the theater and pay the 1700ish yen or so to see it! It starts July 21 in Japan.

By the way, a friend brought to my attention a book that is out of print, but available on Amazon called I was a Kamikaze. I have never read it, but it looks interesting. Surviving suicide missions… That’s heavy. Apparently the author, Nagatsuka was a French literature major at Tokyo university, so he originally wrote this book in French, and later it was translated into English.

Even better, John W. Dower is in this movie. Dower wrote the amazing Japanese post-war history book, Embracing Defeat. This book is as fat as a textbook, but is so interesting it reads like a novel. Highly recommended!

– Harvey

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