The 4 of us recently spent the weekend at Tamatsukuri Hot Springs, about an hour away from home. H's younger brother got married that week but didn't have a ceremony, so the 2 families gathered for the weekend at a traditional resort to celebrate and get to know each other.
The ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel) we stayed at was quite big and very fancy. The entranceway (pictured below) overlooked a lovely garden and there was a roof-top open-air bath as well as the 'ordinary' hot spring baths on the ground floor. H's brother had said that it would be a casual weekend, but I knew that his parents would ignore that and dress quite formally, so I didn't want to turn up in jeans. For the boys I appliqued matching neck-ties onto plain T-shirts for a bit of smart-casual fun. K is very proud of his ability to hop and stand on one leg lately, hence the Long John Silver pose...
In the evening we ate dinner in a huge banqueting hall, rather over-the-top for our party. The happy couple sat at the head of the room, in front of the gold screen, and the 2 families sat in lines facing each other. It's a typical setting for this type of party, but not really very good for getting to know each other I think. H's brother is the youngest of 3 brothers and his wife is the youngest of 3 sisters. All the elder siblings are married and have at least 2 children each, so it was quite a lively get-together. Oh, look, there's H's dad in a grey suit and his mum (only half in the shot) in a black lace dress - I knew it!
In traditional fashion our meal was served on individual tables and brought out little by little, although not in 'courses' in a Western sense. There was sashimi, crab, steak, deep-fried goodies cooked in the room in front of us and all kinds of little dishes of who-knows-what. This photo is of K's meal - I think he got the best deal actually, especially as he got an adult portion of crab from his allergic cousin.
Once the meal was over, the children enjoyed running riot around the room, and I was happy to let H's mum be on T duty for a while...
After taking the waters, it was time for bed. The hotel provided yukata, light-weight cotton kimono for wearing around the hotel and as pyjamas. They even had K-sized ones...
While we were downstairs, the maids laid out the futons for us. H had a headache and soon fell asleep. K and T, however, were very excited and didn't settle for a long time. It was the first time for T to spend the night out of the confines of his cot and he continued to explore the room long after K had fallen asleep. Actually, I fell asleep before him too! I woke up a few times during the night, and found T fast asleep in a completey different place every time. I got up first in the morning, while the other 3 were still asleep, and here's what I saw:
I forgot to take a good picture of the room, but it was big! The screens in the top-right of the photo above opened onto a view of the gardens. It was a corner room and behind me, as I took this picture, was a small seating area in front of windows overlooking the town. There was a full bathroom, a large entranceway to the room, and a whole other small room, which we simply used to put our bags in.
Down on the ground floor there was a small courtyard in the centre of the hotel, where you could sit and dangle your feet in the hot spring water. K and I tried it out after a big breakfast, back in the banqueting hall again.
Everyone went their separate ways after check-out at 10am, but it seemed a shame just to go home. A 20 minute drive brought us to a small aquarium, mainly featuring aquatic life from the 2 nearby lakes. These lakes are actually joined to each other and finally open onto the sea, so the water in them grows increasingly salty as you head east, creating interesting and varied eco-systems.
Both K and T enjoyed looking at the fish, especially in this 'bubble-head' tank!
After lunch we drove further around the lake until we got back to Matsue. I'd heard there was a nice park there for young children so we stopped for an hour and K had a good play, before heading home again once more.