We’ve already featured the great little town of Ako in a previous post: A weekend in Ako
But there’s so much to do in Ako that we just had to go back for more!
This time, my big goal was to stay at Ginpaso, a seaside ryokan with a legendary hot spring. We arrived at the ryokan in the late afternoon and checked into our beautiful Japanese-style room.
Here’s the view from our window.
Okay, just teasing. Here’s the real view from our window. Pretty impressive.
As soon as we were settled, we started getting ready to take a dip in the hot springs before dinner. Why before dinner?
To see this.
The hot springs provides a panoramic view of the Seto Inland Sea, and what’s more, it’s an outdoor hot springs with an infinity pool. As you sink into the pool, your eyes can’t distinguish the boundary between the hot springs and the ocean. It’s magnificent.
We dragged ourselves out of the hot springs reluctantly when it was time for dinner.
Dinner is, of course, exquisite Japanese cuisine served in your room.
Fish from the Seto Inland Sea is prominently featured.
The beef shabu-shabu is also delicious.
After one more relaxing dip in the hot springs, we were all ready for bed, and futons had been conveniently laid out for us on the tatami floor.
The next morning, we woke up for a healthy Japanese-style breakfast consisting of various egg, fish, tofu, and vegetable dishes… and of course, rice and miso soup.
Another dip in the hot springs provided a view of the inscrutable morning sea.
After breakfast and bath, we sadly said farewell to Ginpaso and headed to our first destination: The Ako Marine Science Museum. This is a museum dedicated to sea salt, one of Ako’s regional specialties.
Here you can see an authentic old-fashioned Japanese salt-processing facility and salt fields.
The facility is still in use, and salt is being produced there every day! Seawater is pumped in through canals and spread out across the salt fields, where the water evaporates and the salt crystallizes. This is rinsed with successive infusions of seawater, gradually increasing the salt concentration of the water until the extremely salty water is drained out and boiled in the buildings nearby.
After a tour of the facilities, we got to give salt-making a try ourselves! I was especially excited about this because I’ve been using sea salt a lot in my cooking recently, and I’ve turned into a bit of a sea salt nut.
The process was simple but very time- and effort-intensive. After boiling the water, you need to use a series of different techniques to grind constantly until the salt becomes a fine powder.
I was thrilled to be able to take home my very own homemade sea salt at the end! It was a very fine powder – completely unlike table salt, but similar to the powder that is sometimes served with tempura in Japan. It also contains a variety of trace minerals from the sea not found in ordinary table salt, so it has a deeper, richer flavor.
Later in the day, we also visited Ako Castle and Oishi Shrine – read more about these landmarks in my previous post, A weekend in Ako
Check-in: 3 PM (be sure to arrive in time to see the sunset!)
Check-out: 10 AM
Address: 2-8 Misaki, Ako-shi, Hyogo 678-0215
Website: http://www.ginpaso.co.jp/index.html (Japanese/English)
Ako Marine Science Museum (Ako Shiritsu Kaiyou Kagakukan Shio no Kuni)
Hours: 9 AM – 4:30 PM
Address: 1891-468 Misaki, Ako-shi, Hyogo 678-0215
Website: http://www2.memenet.or.jp/~akoharm/marine/ (Japanese)
How To Get There
From Sannomiya: Take the westbound JR line to Banshu Ako Station (74 minutes). A shuttle bus can pick you up from the station. (Be sure to call in advance.)
Ako Marine Science Museum
The museum is a 10-minute taxi ride from Ginpaso or the train station. It’s also an interesting walk if the weather is good.