Many of us enjoy travelling all around the world, and there’s one drink you can find just about anywhere you go. That’s right – beer!
I myself never miss a chance to try the local beer, no matter what country I’m in.
In Japan, Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo, and Suntory are the four biggest breweries, and the most popular beers among them are, of course, Kirin Ichiban Shibori and Asahi Super Dry.
But here at Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan, we have much more than your standard beers; on top of Kirin and Asahi, you can enjoy Yebisu on tap or “Shima Onsen Ale,” our very own locally brewed beer and the feature of today’s blog post.
As the name implies, Shima Onsen Ales are ale-style beers made in Shima Onsen.
Shima Onsen Ale brews the following 3 beers, listed from palest to darkest:
– Blond Maya Hime
– Amber Oketsu
– Stout Yoru no Otozure
Japan is world-renowned for its abundance of ski resorts and top-notch powder snow.
Niseko in Hokkaido and Hakuba in Nagano are particularly popular among international visitors and residents.
In fact, many come to and live in Japan for the sole purpose of enjoying some of the best slopes in the world.
Of course, some visitors may have other things in mind when visiting.
Some prefer just a taste of the snow while enjoying the scenery, shopping, or onsen. Shima Onsen offers the perfect solution to such visitors.
Although there are no ski resorts in the direct vicinity of Shima Onsen, it takes a mere 2 hours by car to get to the world-class slopes in Naeba or the powdered dreamland of Karuizawa.
Imagine taking a day-trip to a snowboarder’s paradise and returning to relax your weary muscles in Shima Onsen’s healing waters.
For international visitors who decide to rent a car, such a day-trip could be the perfect way to spend your time here at Shima Onsen.
Read on for more information on the many ski resorts in the Shima Onsen Area!
Naeba Ski Resort is a world-renowned ski resort which has hosted the Alpine Ski World Cup in the past.
Although located in the neighboring Niigata Prefecture, the ski resort is surprisingly close—only an hour and a half by car!
Just take the Kan-Etsu Expressway’s Tsukiyono Interchange (IC) to get there in a flash.
Tambara Ski Park, also known for its summer lavenders, is only half an hour away from the Kan-Etsu Expressway’s Numata IC.
For another option about the same distance away, check out Kawaba Resort’s long course, which is only 25 minutes from the Numata IC.
While you’re there, try dropping in at the famous michi no eki (“roadside station”), Kawaba Den-en Plaza.
The Numata IC itself is about an hour away from Shima Onsen via Kokudo (“National Highway”) 145 and 353.
For a ski resort closer to Shima Onsen, we recommend Norn Minakami Ski Resort, which is only 3 km from the Kan-Etsu Expressway’s Minakami IC.
This is without a doubt the most convenient ski resort in terms of access from Shima Onsen.
Other excellent options are the Karuizawa Snow Park and the Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort, both of which can be accessed via the Joshin-Etsu Expressway’s Usui Karuizawa IC.
While neither resort receives much natural snowfall, the slopes are made with high-quality snowmaking equipment.
Because of this, you never have to worry about the quality of powder changing from year to year, since the conditions on the slopes aren’t dependent on the weather!
Despite its name, Karuizawa Snow Park is in an area called Northern Karuizawa, which is actually in Gunma, and only a little over an hour from Shima Onsen.
This resort also boasts slopes and snow activities for kids, making it a family-friendly choice as well! What’s more, there are short-term tickets for either 2 or 4 hours, for visitors who only want a small taste of the snow.
Also noteworthy, the Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza is right next to the Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort.
Why not enjoy some shopping before or after you hit the slopes?
As you can see, Shima Onsen isn’t only a place to go for a nice bath.
We’re surrounded by excellent ski slopes, so why not take advantage? After all, the ski-onsen combo is popular even among the Japanese!
The winter season is upon us now, so you may be asking yourself: what is there to do here in Japan? Well, let us give you just a few ideas!
In winter, you can enjoy snowy landscapes stretching over a wide range in Japan, from Hokkaido in the far north to the more central Northern Kanto where Shima Onsen and our Kashiwaya Ryokan are located. Although it depends on the conditions in each region, generally the snow season is from December until March.
In Japan, people with tattoo are often rejected to take onsen. You must feel unreasonable in spite of taking all the trouble of visiting Japan to take onsen. Aren’t there any ways to take onsen even with tattoo?
Previously, we wrote an article about how traveling by rental car gives you significantly more options on how to enjoy yourself once you arrive in a hot spring area, since there are many picturesque sightseeing locations around hot spring areas like ours that are inaccessible by public transportation.
Today, we wanted to share some more delightful news for international visitors who plan to travel Japan by rental car!
Starting October 13, 2017, you can purchase a pass that allows you unlimited access to expressways all across Japan.
It’s called the Japan Expressway Pass, and it will cost 20,000 yen for 7 days or 34,000 yen for 14 days of unlimited access.
The pass will be available at 275 rental car shops across Japan.
Unfortunately, you cannot purchase the pass in Gunma Prefecture, which is where Shima Onsen is located.
However, it will be available at rental car shops in Haneda Airport and Narita Airport, which are the airports closest to Shima Onsen, as well as in other major international airports.
People with non-Japanese passports and Japanese citizens with permanent residence in other countries will be eligible to use this pass.
(Please note that you will also need a driver’s license that allows you to drive in Japan.)
All you need to do in advance is reserve an expressway electronic toll collection (ETC) card and a rental car that is compatible with the Japanese Expressway Pass from a shop that offers the pass.
Pick up your rental car from the shop on the day of your reservation, and please enjoy a pleasant journey by car.
(Please note that the pass cannot be used on expressways in certain areas, such as the Tokyo metropolitan area or Hokkaido.)
Traveling Japan by car allows you to enjoy the countryside that cannot be accessed by public transportation, so your trip is sure to be a deeply memorable one!
Japan Expressway Pass: Click here for more details
The total number of lodgers who came from foreign countries to Japan reached a record 70 million in 2016.
80% of them stayed in descending order in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hokkaido, Okinawa, Chiba, Fukuoka, Aichi and Kanagawa prefecture.
Most of these regions are known for sightseeing, and are destinations on the “Golden Route”.
Meanwhile, the numbers of lodgers staying in Gunma prefecture where Shima Onsen is were just 210,000, 0.3% of the total.
(From the statistical survey by Japan Tourism Agency)
To get more visitors from foreign countries, we the managers of small onsen ryokans in the countryside are working hard to attract them.
The Japanese government helps us by promoting rural areas as nice places to visit and also help enhance community revitalization.
For example, according to ‘Tourism Vision to Support the Future of Japan’ drawn up by the Japan Tourism Agency in 2016, the Japanese government is actively making a plan which aims to double the number of foreign tourists visiting the countryside in Japan by 2020.
With this, the amount of money spent by foreign tourists in Japan is estimated to more than double from about JPY 3.5 trillion in 2015 to JPY 8 trillion by 2020.
(From the survey by the Japan Tourism Agency & Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management)
The Japan Tourism Agency gives tourists information about recommended tourist routes in the countryside, such as hot spring tours, visiting Japanese Sake breweries.
The Japanese government has started to support improvements to local areas which encourage foreign tourism.
Questionnaires filled out by foreign tourists who visited Japan for the first time showed that the tours they would like to do next were ones in which they could experience nature, fishing or rural areas, the four seasons, Japanese history, and the traditional cultures in the countryside.
This indicates they take more interest in the countryside and rural areas in Japan.
(From the survey by the Japan Tourism Agency)
There are many kinds of regional unique sceneries, food cultures, and onsen cultures in Japan.
Japan has wide range of climate conditions because of its length from north to south.
Japan also has a long history.
This history and climate affect the Japanese culture and landscape which can still be seen in the countryside and rural areas, but is sometimes difficult to see in the urban environment.
For example, you can enjoy beautiful nature like the amazing blue water of the Shima river which is called “Shima Blue“, In this region you can experience onsen culture as it was after the war, feel a peaceful atmosphere not found in big cities, and communicate with the warm hearted people of Shima Onsen.
However, we have some problems we have to resolve when hosting foreign tourists who don’t speak Japanese.
Public transportation information for coming to the countryside is insufficient.
We need more signs and guides in English and other foreign languages.
Currently we are developing communication systems like Wi-Fi in the countryside.
People in the countryside may not understand English. They may only speak Japanese.
Still, the countryside and rural areas in Japan are worth visiting.
We would like you to visit the traditional Japanese countryside in your next trip to Japan.
We are sure it will enhance your Japanese experience.
The accommodation of Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan usually includes dinner and breakfast (one night stay and two meals per day).
You can enjoy your stay in a traditional Japanese Ryokan that has Japanese features such as tatami rooms, an Onsen (hot spring), and Japanese cuisine.
We are happy to have received a lot of good comments and reviews, especially about the cuisine.
The dinner in the evening is truly the best bit though… A 12 course meal with so many different things to try from Japanese cuisine…
The food was amazing, they happily accommodated my vegetarian request and the in-room dinner and breakfast made the stay feel like a real traditional Japanese experience.
Breakfast is served downstairs, but dinner is served in your own room – both are a delicious parade of more than ten different dishes!
Recently the number of guests at our Ryokan from overseas has been increasing.
In the last four months alone (January to April) this year, we have welcomed guests from more than 30 countries and regions.
So, we have also had variety of requests for special menus (especially vegetarian and vegan).
Therefore, Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan has created five special menus.
Regular dishes that we usually serve and many of our guests enjoy.
2. Menu with no meat
Substitute other ingredients for all meat in the regular menu.
Seafood, egg, dairy products are still used.
3. Vegetarian A menu
No meat and seafood, but a basic element of Japanese cuisine, ‘Katsuo Dashi’ (Japanese-style broth with dried bonito(fish) ) is used. Egg and dairy products are also used.
4. Vegetarian B menu
This meal does not contain meat, seafood, egg or dairy products, although ‘Katsuo Dashi'(Japanese-style broth with dried bonito) is used.
As it was mentioned above, ‘Katsuo Dashi’ is a basic element of Japanese cuisine.
5. Vegan menu
This menu does not contain meat, seafood, egg or dairy products. Special broth with edible kelp, mushrooms, and vegetables is used instead of ‘Katsuo Dashi’ (Japanese-style broth with dried bonito). There is an extra charge of 1,500yen per night per person.
About Allergy / Food Intolerance
We are afraid that we cannot accommodate fully for food allergies.
We will try to do our best. However, some ingredients may contain allergens, and allergens are handled and prepared in the same environment with all other food items, so trace amounts of these allergens may be found in all dishes.
We appreciate your understanding in this matter.
We are sorry to say that we cannot currently prepare halal food.
It is difficult for us to divide our cookware and utensils to prepare a halal menu.
In addition, some seasonings contain a little alcohol.
Please choose one of the five menus above, if possible.
We appreciate your understanding in this matter.
Likes and dislikes
We highly recommend that you try Washoku (Japanese cuisine). It is a great opportunity to enjoy it. There may be some dishes and ingredients that you are unfamiliar with, but they are worth trying.
Please let us know any of your menu requests in advance.
We may not able to accommodate you if ordered on the same day.