Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku Ryokan – How to Stay Like a Local in Japan

We have yet to visit Japan but we still find ourselves constantly wondering, “What to do in Japan?” or “Where to stay in Japan?”. Our good friend Sarah recently had the opportunity to stay at Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku Ryokan and she wrote an amazing review for us to share with you. Hope you enjoy, and as always, remember to comment and share. God Bless!

Sarah is the person behind the travel and lifestyle blog “Fernwehsarah – a guide to travel the world“.  She calls herself a “Travel-a-holic” and aims to inspire others to travel more often. On her blog and her Instagram account she shares travel inspirations as well as destination guides and travel hacks in both German and English. The young, Berlin City Girl, loves traveling to unspoiled beaches, eating regional food and connecting with the locals. So far Sarah has been to over 50 countries and does not plan to stop soon. You can follow her journeys and the search for the experience of a lifetime on various social media channels!

Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku Ryokan – How to Stay Like a Local in Japan.

When I was in Japan this time I decided that it was finally time to stay at a real Japanese Ryokan!

So, after some research, I decided in favor of the Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku Ryokan. Takaragawa Onsen is part of the Minakami Onsen region in Gunma preference – and it’s often rated as being one of the best Onsen in whole Japan! And the Osenkaku Ryokan is the only Ryokan at Takaragawa Onsen!

Since I wanted you to be able to share the experience, I wrote this review and took a vlog about my stay there! If you are not keen on videos – just move on!

So what’s a Japanese Ryokan?

Essentially, a Ryokan is a traditional guesthouse with Japanese rooms (I’ll explain what that means later) that usually serves dinner and breakfast as well. The rate you pay is usually per person, not per room, as the food is included.

So even if a Ryokan might looks expensive in the beginning, it can actually be a very fair price. Think of how much a really good Japanese dinner can cost!

Some Ryokans come with an Onsen, a naturally heated spa pool. If it’s an outdoor Onsen, it is also called Rotemburo. Usually nowadays, Onsen are gender-separated – but some are also mixed gender (konjaku), essentially making them more attractive to western visitors. 😉

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What makes Takaragawa Onsen and the Ryokan Osenkaku special?

I did a fair amount of research before deciding on which Ryokan to stay in because it can be complicated for foreigners sometimes.

Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku is used to western visitors though and has an English website as well as English speaking staff members. They are listed on Booking.com and Agoda and they have an Onsen.

Wait, not any Onsen. Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku actually has four Rotemburos and two inside Onsen. And one of their outside Onsen is the biggest rotemburo  in whole Japan!

Aaaand they are mixed-gender  – so I didn’t have to leave Markus behind! Triple win! If you are a shy female, there is also one female-only onsen, don’t worry!

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Getting to Takaragawa Onsen and the Ryokan Osenkaku

and checking in!

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Another thing that I loved about Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku was that they offer free shuttle busses from both the closest local train station in Minakami as well as the Shinkansen station (Jomo Kogen). That essentially savies you around 10€ per person per way in bus fares. Plus, it is super convient!

So when we arrived at the Shinkansen Jomo-Kogen station, it was super easy to find them near the east exit and we boarded the bus quickly. After around 50min we arrived at the Osenkaku Ryokan and were immediately greeted with Japanese hospitality.

We could even choose our Yukata for rent from many designs! Afterwards, the staff quickly showed us to our beautiful corner room in the older main building of Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku (super beautiful! Opt for this one!)

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The room at Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku!

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If you have never stayed at a Japanese room, there is one thing that might surprise you in the beginning: there is no bed!

The whole room is covered with Tatami mats (in fact, room size is not measured in square meter but in the number of Tatami mats!) and you usually sit on the floor with a cushion! That’s also why every table looks like a coffee table in height!

And when it’s bedtime, there are futon mattresses somewhere in a big wall closet – those mattresses are put on the Tatami mats and make your bed! It might be unusual if you sleep on them the first time – but to me it was surprisingly comfortable!

If you worry about misbehaving (or worried because you have a tattoo – I’ve got you covered!

We chose to book the slightly more expensive corner room of Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku and I can definitely recommend doing that! Not only is your room really big (15 Tatami mats instead of 6 or 8) – it also has a splendid view on the river!

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The Food at Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku.

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As mentioned, your room rate normally includes both dinner and breakfast and this is also true for the Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku!

Our dinner actually consisted of seven courses and was super tasty! If you never had a Japanese dinner before, you will be surprised by the variety! And if you have, you know what I am talking about! Even a small bottle of wine or sake was included!

The breakfast at Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku is buffet style and includes both Western as well as traditional Asian breakfast elements. Compared to the dinner, it was less fancy but still very tasty!

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The Takaragawa Onsen itself.

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What can I say? It was amazing! The Takaragawa Onsen in Minakami region are among the most beautiful spa pools I have ever seen! And I have seen a few of them already!

They are surrounded by lush green vegetation (or pink, if you come early enough for cherry blossom!) and separated by a river flowing along the whole area.

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Everything is designed with meticulous love to details and the whole experience is soooo relaxing! Watch my vlog on “Ryokanikette” to avoid common mistakes (think about the tattoo issue in Japan) – both at the Ryokan as well as the Onsen.

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How did you like this article? Did you miss any information or feel like it was not accurate or recent? Please let me know in the comments so that I can improve! And be sure to follow me on InstagramYouTube or Pinterest. You can also join my tribe (aka sign up to my newsletter) to always know about new posts first!

xoxo, Sarah

1 Day Guide to Grand Teton National Park

Wyoming is known to many visitors as the primary home of our nation’s darling Yellowstone National Park. Upon arrival, these visitors must be surprised to find another equally beautiful park just to the south. After hearing all the amazing things to do in Grand Teton National Park, we’re sure they’ll find themselves pulling into its borders very soon.

We put together a one-day itinerary of things to do in Grand Teton National Park that no one should miss. Be sure to let us know what you think below in the comments, and if you’re feeling extra spectacular shoot this post a like and a share, as always, enjoy! One last thing before you get to far, remember to…

Pin our one day itinerary full of the best things to do in Grand Teton National Park!

Looking for fun things to do in Grand Teton National Park?! Our one day guide has 5 perfect stops planned for you!
Looking for fun things to do in Grand Teton National Park?! Our one day guide has 5 perfect stops planned for you!

See the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center

Campground in Grand Teton
Jenny Lake Campground near the Craig Thomas Discovery Center is the perfect place to spend the night, start a hike, or just explore Grand Teton!

Assuming you’re pulling in from Jackson and heading north through the park, you’re first stop should be should be at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. For kids, they have the Junior Rangers program and best part is, its free! It helps them learn about the park’s wildlife, history, and future preservation so they can earn a park ranger patch. For adults, the center offers free ranger guided tours around the park, a short movie about the parks famous mountains, and we also think the building is just super cool so you should at least stop in. Lastly, it’s a great place to make sure there are no closures in the park and fill up your water bottles before your adventure begins!

Hiking at Jenny Lake

Jenny Lake Trail Grand Teton
The Jenny Lake loop at is truly one of the best things to do in Grand Teton National Park!

We seriously can’t say enough about how beautiful Jenny Lake is. Anyone who has been knows that this is one of the best things to do in Grand Teton National Park. With wildlife everywhere you turn, mountains mirrored off the water, and endless trails, Jenny Lake is one of our favorite places in the world. We highly recommend everyone take the Hidden Falls trail along the lake’s south shore. Roundtrip the hike is around 5 miles long and features unparalleled views of the valley. The trail climbs a few hundred feet, and is well marked and maintained, making it doable for most people! There is also a ferry that takes you across the lake and pops you out just a mile away if that… floats your boat. 🙂

Picnic at Signal Mountain Lookout

view of grand teton
Signal Mountain offers incredible views of the Tetons you can’t afford to miss!

Your lunch stop should always be at the top of Signal Mountain. Standing just shy of 900 feet above the valley floor, the lookout on top of Signal Mountain offers expansive views of the lakes and forests below and some amazing partial-views of the Tetons. To get to the mountain just turn right onto Signal Mountain Road and follow it to the top. If you reach the dam you’ve gone too far so turn around at the next pull-out. There are bathrooms and a few tables at the top which fill up pretty quickly. Grab one and make it the perfect spot to take a break and chow down after your hike!

Visit the Jackson Lake Lodge

Elk in Grand Teton
Elk and other wildlife roam the park and the valley below the Grand Teton’s. Jackson Lake Lodge is the perfect spot to see them all!

This lodge is actually a bit of a misnomer because it sits around a mile from the lake’s edge. However, the lodge still offers unbelievable views of the mountains themselves via its 60 foot tall picture windows. Between the lake and lodge is a plain where you can spot moose, elk, deer, and other wildlife all day. The lodge also features numerous famous murals and Native-American artifacts that you are free to examine on your own. Depending on when you arrive, you can make this a meal stop by enjoying the amazing in-house Pioneer Grill.

Go Boating at Colter Bay

Jackson Lake Grand Teton
Jackson Lake is gorgeous from any angle but to really explore its vast shorelines you should try renting a boat at Colter Bay!

One of our favorite things to do in Grand Teton National Park is boating on Jackson Lake. The marina in Colter Bay allows you to do just that by renting kayaks, canoes, and motorboats! For two hours of your time and $25 dollars you can rent a kayak and quickly explore the bays along the lake’s shoreline. It really adds a new perspective to the scale and size of mountains above you. It also allows you to explore the park in a way most people never do!

As you can see, there is no limit to the adventures to be had, or of fun things to do in Grand Teton National Park. Have you ever been or would you ever go to Grand Teton? Be sure to let us know below in the comments which part of the itinerary you liked the most and which you’d skip! Please remember to subscribe and share our blog on social media with your friends and family, God Bless!

5 Can’t Miss Adventures Near Lake Tahoe  

Lake Tahoe is truly a not-so-hidden gem of the western United States. As one of the largest alpine lakes in the world, there are plenty of fun things to do in Lake Tahoe, in both winter and summer. Our guide below will help you identify 5 Can’t Miss Adventures Near Lake Tahoe!

 

The expansive shores offer plenty of things to do in Lake Tahoe; from spectacular hiking trails, amazing wineries and breweries, homey bars, to towering casinos, all with views to match. For these reasons it retains its well-earned reputation as the crown jewel of resort towns in the US. So you can imagine that, after 6 days of camping, Kestra and I were very excited to finally be pulling into Stateline (Tahoe’s casino rich South Shore). While we never did make use of the slot machines, we did find ourselves extremely lucky to be enjoying all the other things to do in Lake Tahoe (there’s a lot!). Although we didn’t have very long to explore, we dreamed of coming back on a warmer day. We’d be sure to enjoy the lake’s festivities and startling blue waters when we return, which leads us to our top 5 adventures that you can enjoy on your  trip to Lake Tahoe! Be sure to let us know what you think below in the comments and if you’re feeling extra wicked cool shoot this post a like and a share, as always, enjoy! One last thing before you get to far, remember to…

Pin our picks for the best things to do in Lake Tahoe!

#1) Exploring Sand Harbor and Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park 

These boulders were so much fun! Til I slipped and fell in of course :)
These boulders were so much fun! Til I slipped and fell in of course 🙂

We’ve all seen those amazing pictures of people paddle boarding on crystalline waters, those were all taken RIGHT HERE! At least that’s what we think! It’s $10 per vehicle, or $2 per bike for a pass into the park which is actually a great deal considering all it has to offer. The visitors center contains an amazing museum with all the history on Lake Tahoe, its mysteriously clear waters, and the growth and development of its shoreline. We can’t say enough about its breathtaking waters (ask me, I fell in when it was still freezing out!). Trails lead on and around the different sandy beaches and rocky shores. They even allow you to go out and onto any of the humongous boulders, if you feel brave enough! Sand Harbor is absolutely perfect for a relaxing day on the beach and is shallow enough that the waters warm to bearable temperatures, so remember to pack your suit! They also host the annual Lake Tahoe Shakespeare festival each fall so be sure to check it out.

#2) Riding the FREE Gondola in Northstar Village 

Free gondola? You read that right! While it isn’t the tallest on the Sierras, the gondola from Northstar Village up to the Ritz-Carlton affords riders the views of the mountains you’d hoped for, as well as the million-dollar homes that line its slopes. To get to the gondola head toward the Village entrance and veer to the right. Follow the path towards the back of Northstar Lodge, where you’ll find the Highlands Gondola. Once at the top you can lounge around the Ritz-Carlton’s deck and enjoy the expansive views surrounding you. After you have your fill of the views at the top, stop back in the village at 3:30 for free s’mores from Northstar’s very own marshmalogist! If you’re looking for free things to do in Lake Tahoe then this is the spot for you!

 

#3) Touring the Thunderbird Lodge

The Thunderbird Lodge is one of Tahoe's most recognizable residences. Tour it yourself on your trip!
The Thunderbird Lodge is one of Tahoe’s most recognizable residences. Tour it yourself on your trip!

Lots of stories surround the owner of this massive lodge on the lake’s northeast shore. From bringing his pet lion to the bar to guarantee himself a seat, to personally causing the stock market crash that lead to the Great Depression, George Whittell Jr.’s estate is one you have to see to believe. Tours are available via reservation online and offer a look into the life of the man credited with preserving Tahoe’s unspoiled beauty along its eastern shoreline. The story goes that after 1929, he pulled his $50,000,000 fortune from the stock market (worth a staggering $60,000,000,000 in 2015) and bought up 27 miles of Lake Tahoe shoreline on the Nevada side. After deciding he didn’t really care for neighbors, he opted to never build the casino and ski resort he had originally planned. After his death the estate was parceled off to various agencies which lead to the developments present today. Schedule your tour to see the remaining estate on foot!

 

#4) Learning about the Lake at Sierra Nevada College

The college is situated on lot full of rugged, old pines, and does a wonderful job of connecting the buildings to the land surrounding them!
The college is situated on lot full of rugged, old pines, and does a wonderful job of connecting the buildings to the land surrounding them!

Sierra Nevada College is a beautiful private, liberal arts university located in Incline Village. The college itself is situated on a cozy campus tucked away in towering trees. The Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences is a stunning, award-winning, LEED certified center for scientific research, geared towards the comprehension and preservation of Lake Tahoe. The building also features numerous exhibits explaining how and why Tahoe is unique, information on how science has been used to restore and protect the lake, and videos on the the history of the lake. It also offers several fantastic hands-on science experiments for your little ones (or yourself, because we loved them too!). Check out the hours here to find a time that fits your schedule. There are few things to do in Lake Tahoe that are better for both the kids and adults, check it out!

 

#5) Biking the Flume Trail

The Flume Trail affords all its conquerors the chance to soak in the Lake's beauty from above, pack a camera!
The Flume Trail affords all its conquerors the chance to soak in the Lake’s beauty from above, pack a camera!

The Flume Trail is a point to point trail about 13 miles long that offers unrivaled views and adrenaline rushes. History lesson! Flumes were originally constructed in Tahoe’s logging heyday to quickly transport logs down the mountains to the mills below. Flumes were made of two boards fashioned into a V-shape with water running down them. They would then carry the logs down to the mill for the loggers. Start your ride at Flume Trail Bikes by renting a bike and taking their shuttle to Spooner Lake State Park. From there you have 4 miles of uphill riding, go slow and you’ll be perfectly fine! Following those 4 miles are 9 unrivaled in splendor and grandeur. Those 9 miles follow the peaks along the lake’s eastern shoreline and finally bring you back  to where you started. Pack a lunch to have at Marlette Lake and make a day of it. There are few things to do in Lake Tahoe that offer you the views the Flume Trail does, from towering mountains to crystal clear lakes, it truly is an unforgetttable experience. So there you have it, all of our 5 Can’t Miss Adventures Near Lake Tahoe!

As you can see there are tons of fun things to do in Lake Tahoe. All of which are family and budget friendly! Be sure to let us know below in the comments which adventure sounds the most fun to you. Do you know any we should try next time we are looking for things to do in Lake Tahoe? Please remember to subscribe and share our blog on social media with your friends and family, God Bless!