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Located along the beautiful Sea of Japan coastline, with its mix of Edo period architecture and sunny beaches, Murakami city makes for a great place to spend your summer holidays. Murakami is most famous for both its world class wind-dried salmon and also its hot spring baths (onsen). Visitors also enjoy the surrounding mountains too, making Murakami a one-of-a-kind destination.
Murakami’s Senami Onsen is a highly popular hot spring resort, favored by Japanese travelers for both the quality of its warm waters, and also the unique sunsets that often embellish the scenery.
Senami Onsen’s Ryokan
We booked ourselves a room at the Taikanso Senami no yu, a large ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) consisting of several different buildings scattered along the coastline. Despite the rather large layout of the resort, customer service was top notch! A free shuttle bus departing from Murakami Station is available to all hotel guests . With the use of this bus it only takes a few minutes to get there, so I highly encourage visitors to jump on-board, as the distance would be too long for a walk.
Taikanso Senami No Yu rather dramatically rests atop a hill. After making our way to the top, we were blessed with a view of the vast ocean stretching out in front of us. One of the employees greeted us at the door, assisted with our luggage and guided us to the room. Don’t freak out if the staff sits down on the tatami floor near the door and bows down, it’s just a customary gesture to wish you a good stay. It is only courteous to return the greeting, and doing so lets us experience Japans culture firsthand.
Now it’s time to relax! The view from the shoji (paper) windows looks over the ocean, perfect for the task.
There’s an onsen for everyone
Those of you who would like your stay to be more private will be happy to hear that all rooms come with an en-suite bathroom, complete with bathtubs. Having said this however, I think a ryokan is best enjoyed with a warm soak at a classic onsen (hot spring bath). There are two rotemburo (outdoor hot springs) available to all of the hotel guests, so here you can experience Senami Onsen’s renowned therapeutic waters yourself. One of these outdoor baths is located on the third floor of the main building, consisting of a large enoki wood bathtub. The other is a stone tub, and is much bigger than the previous. You can find it on the main floor. Both of them feature a splendid view of the ocean allowing you maximum relaxation and pleasure.
Unfortunately it wasn’t possible for me to take a picture inside the rotemburo, as one is almost never alone in these places. Therefore I can’t show you the wonderful wooden tub. Nonetheless, no picture in the world could accurately convey the feeling of taking a warm bath in such a delightful tub, as the sea breeze caresses your face. You will just have to come to Senami Onsen to experience it for yourself!
Senami Onsen’s World Famous Sunsets
After our wonderful soak in the bath, we went for a walk along the beach. Here we found a wooden structure, known as Ashiyu, where visitors sink their feet in the warm water whilst they sit and enjoy the view.
A few steps away rests an intriguing sculpture, dedicated to all the lovers that set foot in Senami Onsen. Sometimes, under specific environmental conditions, when the sun disappears below the horizon the last ray of sunshine appears to look green for a brief moment. If a couple happens to witness this phenomenon, their future together is said to be sealed forever. Lovers are encouraged to ring the bell attached to the sculpture to let the world know their happiness. Furthermore, as you may have seen in other parts of the world too, there’s also a small fence unto which lovers may place a padlock.
From here we can see Awashima island. On clear days, Sado island is also visible in the horizon. Unfortunately, it was dark and cloudy on the day we visited Senami Onsen, so we were unable to enjoy the sunset. Whilst it’s true that it’s this sunset which makes Senami Onsen a famous resort nation-wide, we still had many things to enjoy!
Inside the ryokans lobby you can check a “sunset calendar”. With this you can do your best to make sure you get to witness a sunset. Here visitors can check on which days the sunset will be clearest. This is also a good spot to take in the breathtaking view, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Dinner is served Senami Onsen
Moments after sitting down at the restaurant our table is filled with all kinds of dishes, but best of all, Murakami’s specialty salmon. Guests can cook the meat, fish and seafood themselves on a pan placed on the table. We enjoyed some shabu-shabu (thinly-sliced meat with vegetables on the side), as well as some freshly cooked rice. Sweet wine is also on the menu, and it is a good drink to have in between the hot and cold dishes.
Guests must let the staff know what time they are planning on having dinner beforehand. In the meantime, the staff will tidy and prepare your room for a good nights sleep. Finally, taking a sip of sake (Japanese rice wine) is always a good way to see off the day! Oyasumi-nasai!
Stunning Sunrise and International Breakfast
A warm bath followed by a copious breakfast is the best way to get your energy up. Unlike most ryokans, Taikanso has a variety of western products available for breakfast.
Options include coffee, pastries, sausages and fries. Washoku (Japanese food) lovers will probably opt to have some rice, fish and natto. Eat as much as you can, because it’s a free buffet kind of breakfast!
We said our goodbyes to the wonderful staff of Senami Onsen’s Taikanso Senami No Yu, and headed out to catch the bus. From here we were ready to go and explore the traditional side of Murakami.