Said my mother, at the crack of dawn, as she peered outside our hotel window.
This was my mom’s first trip to Asia. She retired this year and was ready to explore this part of the world since my mèimei (younger sister) and I now live over here. We decided to spend a week deep in Kurokawa’s onsen country (onsens are what the Japanese call their naturally occurring hot springs). My sister and I visited this area last year, which is where we picked up our onsen addiction. We knew our mom would dig it. Who wouldn’t like wearing a pretty kimono all day and soaking in mineral rich waters nestled in the woods???
We all flew in separately to Fukuoka (airport code FUK), which is the capital of Kyushu Island, Japan; my sister from Hong Kong, me from Taiwan and my mom from the US. We spent the night eating pan-fried gyoza (half moon-shaped dumplings) and marveling that we were all together which hasn’t happened in a couple years. The next day we tromped around the city of Fukuoka before heading to the countryside.
The only thing that could derail this trip would be if my mom did get that tattoo of her beloved cats. It was plausible. Now we wondered… did she?
My mom and the Japanese share an equal love for the Moomin and wouldn’t you know it, we serendipitously stumble upon a Moomin cafe.
Let’s get this Onsen thing on!
We hopped on a public bus and in 2 hours got plopped off at our ryokan in Kurokawa (a ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn with tatami mat rooms). We immediately purchased our wooden onsen hopping passes at the town co-op (aka cat central). These gems grant access to any 3 onsens in the town (which is in addition to the onsens at our ryokans). These were the hardest 3 decisions we had to make all week.
The land of gnomes and onsen eggs
Mama feeling the magic
No Johnsons in these Onsens
Night night onsen moon
Back in the city of Fukuoka…
Mama Bear & I continue on…
We took the train to Karatsu, a quaint coastal town in the northwest region of Saga Prefecture in Kyushu. We spent 2 nights here in a family run ryokan called Yōyōkaku 洋々閣. The garden features old black pines that are 200+ years old, ceramics (on display and for sale) by Takashi and Hanako Nakazato and of course, an onsite onsen. This was the highest concentrations of corgis I’ve seen in Japan – 1 for every day we were there, which was 2 corgis, therefor, this is my favorite coastal town.
Black Pine Forest of 1 Million Trees
Next stop, Taiwan
We spent the next week and half in Taichung, exploring parks, visiting museums, going to the week long International Jazz fest, eating local treats, getting a couple foot massages and watching mèimei do a rainstick dance.
National Taichung Theater Happy Hour
And more treats…
THE. BEST. DESSERT. ON. THE. PLANET.
Guinea Pig Drama
We had a guinea pig situation that is still cracking my mom up. In short, let’s just say guinea pigs don’t enjoy the sound of crashing cymbals and/or wide-eyed Caucasian women staring of it with big toothy grins. I dedicate this photo to my mom. ❤️
Venson, my mom’s new hair designer
It’s a family affair with Venson
Thanks for making it this far dear blog fans. I know that was a lot of photos, but I culled them down from 1,500! Blogging is not easy, people. For those interested in learning more about the Kurokawa Onsen area, go here.
And it turns out my mom did not get any cat tattoos, so we were able to visit ALL onsens.
This was such a special trip for us – a once in a lifetime vacation with our mum. And despite my mom’s very early morning rising, crinkling and opening of bags (in our small ryokan rooms), we had a heck of a time sharing this adventure together. Thanks for making the long journey all the way over here, Muumimamma! We’re so grateful you did. Come back anytime, you too mèimei.