What do the Complex editors do when they're not serving you with endless hours of entertainment?
My Spot takes you inside some of their favorite destinations, both in the 'hood and around the globe.
When it came time for Complex Senior Deputy Editor Donnie Kwak to pick his favorite go-to spot on Earth, there was really only one choice: the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene, where one can mingle with the hippest of hip amongst a treasure trove of overpriced tchotchkes, highfalutin' food, and...oh, wait. This isn't My Spot That We Want To Throw Molotov Cocktails At, is it? Right. This is My Spot. That we like. Got it. Here, then, is why Donnie co-signs the traditional ryokan Japanese-style inn experience in Tsumago, Japan...
The actual ryokan in Tsumago that I stayed at.
Your first trip to Japan will inevitably be for the craziness of Tokyo. Second trip? The culture of Kyoto. But for your third trip—or, if you're just particularly fond of nature hikes, Asian history, and small towns—you should definitely check out an old-Japan destination like Tsumago. About halfway between Tokyo and Kyoto, Tsumago was a post town of the Edo period, a place where travelers stopped along the route between the two cities to eat, drink, and rest. Today, Tsumago has been preserved as a historical site (i.e., stone-paved roads and no streetlights) that maintains distinctly Japanese traditions like the ryokan, which is an old-style inn. There are plenty of ryokans all over Japan, but I can only vouch for the one I visited in Tsumago. And—with the following pictures and words—vouch for it I will.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:
• First off, if you need phone service, wi-fi, TV, or a comfy bed to be happy, this experience might not be for you.
"Continental breakfast" this ain't.
• Like hotels, the price of a ryokan reservation varies on location and quality, but you can definitely stay at a good one for less than $100 per night for two people. Bonus: Breakfast and dinner are served, and it's gonna blow your mind.
• Tourist guides suggest that the best time to visit a rural ryokan is in the fall or spring. I visited in the dead of winter—it was still a grand experience, but it was, as they say, cold as fuck. Kerosene heaters and electric blankets help, but the lack of central heating means that if you're going to go in the winter months, you'll need to have multiple layers...and a cuddle buddy.
• You'll be sleeping on the floor on tatami mats, surrounding by paper sliding doors (shoji) like the ones pictured above. Bathrooms are communal and located outside of individual rooms. These doors are pretty fragile—you know, being made of paper and all—which I unfortunately discovered on a middle-of-the-night bathroom run. Hopefully they've fixed that hole by now. Moushiwake arimasen deshita. [*Bowing*]
• The roughly five-mile hike between Tsumago and neighboring post town Magome is a major draw for tourists. Along the way, you'll encounter forests, waterfalls, mountains, and maybe a few well-dressed Germans.
Candy from God.
• You'll see plenty of persimmon trees and dried persimmons hanging outside windows along your hike. That's good if you like eating persimmons. I do.
Breathe it in.
• Bring your camera. I never bring a camera anywhere, but I'm pretty glad I brought one to Tsumago.
A shot of Magome.
• Upon arrival in Magome, you'll find some interesting stalls and shops to browse through...as well as more sprawling vistas, glimpses of traditional Japanese culture, and beautiful, unforgettable sights. You won't want to leave, really.
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