Had a great time over Golden Week when I headed to Lake Biwa. I stayed in an amazing hotel with a view of the castle in Hikone. I tried Omi wagyu beef and local delicacies at their restaurant (the beef was so flavourful) and took advantage of their free bikes to bike around the castle and go inside one of the few remaining castles in Japan that has never been destroyed and rebuilt. That evening, after a disappointing shabu shabu meal, I enjoyed the hotel's onsen which had a view of the castle and moat which was lit up red at night. I probably spent an hour in their silk bath even though without my glasses the castle was a red blur lol. The next day, I enjoyed the restaurant's excellent breakfast buffet (gotta love roast duck in the morning) then headed down south to the town of Otsu. There I visited Miidera temple which holds a lot of national treasure Buddhist statues, a famous bell and has an amazing view of Lake Biwa (plus they filmed some of the Rurouni Kenshin live action film there). I then caught a train up into the mountains to this little town whose only claim to fame is their famous eel restaurant, Kaneyo. It was supposed to be some of the best eel in Japan and since I love eel, I figured I might as well go. They also serve omlettes with it for some reason so this is what I ended up with. I enjoyed it but I have had better eel before and I think the smokey taste from their grill was actually a little overwhelming of the natural eel flavour. That photo is killing it on google maps amusingly enough. (I've since done some research and it seems they only smoke eel in the kansai region whereas in the kanto region they smoke and steam them... I probably prefer the later.)
After lunch, I headed back out of the mountains and had to catch a bus (which was chronically 15min late) up the other side of the lake to the Ogoto onsen area, ie the hot springs. I had researched before hand about various hotels/ryokan there and picked one that seemed to have a good variety of hot spring pools to try - Yumotokan. I went in and had to pay a special fee, and then I was just told which floors the onsen were on. That was perhaps the worst part - the three hot springs that were open to women that day where on the 8th, 5th, and 2nd floor. People who were staying at the hotel just had to pull on their yukata (hotel robes) to go between them but I had to laboriously get dressed and undressed. I headed to the 8th floor first where there was an infinity pool looking out over the lake and a quite comfy outdoor pool, also with a view. There was a sauna as well. All were a tad bit too hot so I couldn't stay forever and decided to head down to the 2nd floor. This turned out to be a good choice because it was nearly empty probably because it was obviously decorated in the 80s and in need of a bit of an update. What I did love was the steam sauna and the foot massage/bath. Now ridiculously clean, I once again headed up to the 5th floor where they had a very impressive outdoor bath made from artistically arranged rocks - some made an arch, some to perch on, some for a natural spring and waterfall. It was really gorgeous. Unfortunately, it was also getting towards evening so there were a bit too many bugs out for me to fully relax plus the water was too hot to soak for long. I almost had the place to myself though since everyone was getting ready for dinner. I headed back to catch the bus, then ran to catch the train back up to Hikone.
After another good sleep and a great breakfast I decided to make my slow way back to my apartment in Nara prefecture. Since everyone has off during Golden Week the trains and stations were ridiculously crowded. I felt pretty overwhelmed passing through Kyoto station but better when I stopped at a station near an Aeon mall which I knew had a theatre in it. There I payed the exorbitant ticket price ($20 for a movie at noon!) and got to see Captain America Civil War. I enjoyed it in general, but it was kinda predictable and I have a bunch of nitpicks. Even so, 100 times better than Age of Ultron. I then decided to wander around the huge mall, bought some socks and went to the huge grocery store. My local stores are fine but are somewhat lacking in variety so it's nice to hit the bigger stores in the cities for a change. I found the best chuhai flavour ever too - cherry lime from Okinawa. It's so good but I have yet to find it locally. Shopping done, I headed back to my apartment and spent the rest of the holiday recovering from my vacation.
Golden Week - Lake Biwa
May 13th, 2016