Monday, March 27, 2017

Feb-ulous Kyoto: Onsen by the Lake

Early spring may not be the best season to visit Lake Biwa region (it's much more popular during summer time), but we wanted a quick getaway to somewhere nearby after spending 2 nights in Kyoto. So we hopped onto the train and spend a night at a lakeside onsen resort in Ogoto-onsen in Shiga Prefecture, on the west side of the Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan.

Lake Biwa turned out to be much closer than I thought - well, Ogoto-onsen wasn't that far up afield up the lake, but it's hardly 20 minutes away from Kyoto by local train on JR Kusei line. At the train station, we were picked up by the resort shuttle and headed straight to Ryokusuitei in less than 5 minutes away by car.

Ryokusuitei is probably bigger than those cozy ryokan we usually prefer, with multiple levels of rooms and full-fledged banquet halls. But that also meant it's better equipped, with more space and larger facilities. Our room was one of the more spacious we have stayed in, completed with proper beds (instead of the traditional tatami), a balcony with unobstructed view of the lake, and an outdoor private onsen bath which can comfortably fit two.

The public onsen facilities were modern and spacious, with both indoor and outdoor baths. The water was the basic alkaline type, which left your skin with this smooth, slimy feel. I went for a dip in the afternoon before dinner, and again the next morning before checking out, and both times I only saw a handful of others in the bath. And outside there's also a foot and hand bath facilities in an area that resembled a high-end spa resort, plus the relaxation lounge where we could chill over juices, coffee, and ice-pops after soaking in the hot water bath.

Dinner wasn't the top of the world but nonetheless decent. Highlights of the multiple course traditional dinner menu included slices of Omi beef served shabu-shabu style. I was actually more impressed by the breakfast, served buffet style with wide variety of western and Japanese dishes. I particularly love the choices of pickles and raw fish to cook on our table-top grill.

There are definitely more to see and do around Lake Biwa during the warmer seasons - the Enryaku-ji temple on Mount Hiei were just a couple stations away plus the long cable car ride up the mountain, and there's the famous fireworks festival held on the lake every summer. So there's no lack of incentive to coming back for a longer stay next time.

Biwako Ogoto-Onsen Ryokusuitei:
6-1-6, Ogoto, Otsu-shi, Shiga Prefecture, Japan
おごと温泉 びわこ緑水亭 滋賀県大津市雄琴6-1-6

(Feb-ulous Kyoto Part 9 - check out the whole series here!)

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