Jeffrey Bergier

Jeffrey Bergier

My favorite thing in Japan is to go to onsen (温泉) and relax. I can’t claim to have been to many onsen but I think I have been to enough to know what traits I like.

  1. I like them to be near-ish a major station.
    • Many of them are near station stops that are just for that onsen and that means there is nothing there, so in-between check-in/out and the train there is nothing to do.
  2. I like to go to ryōkan (旅館) with good food.
    • Many of them are more like family restaurants with mediocre buffet food.
  3. I like to go to ryōkan with good baths.
    • Many of them have baths where you can clearly see the next ryōkan over or where you can’t see much at all.

For these reasons I pretty much always find any of the ryōkan in Sakunami Onsen (作並温泉) and Akiu Onsen (秋保温泉) to be 💯. These onsen are easily accessible from Sendai station (仙台駅). Sendai is the biggest city in the Tōhoku region (東北地方) of Japan. There’s plenty of things to do there and eat there. Sendai City is known for gyūtan (牛タン), zunda (ずんだ), and sushi (寿司). You can look up the first two on your own. I always go for the sushi. The sushi there is always delicious and very affordable. The quality of an expensive sushi lunch in Ginza (銀座) for only $30 or less; Its incredible! All of the sushi places are great but if I had to recommend one, it would be: umai sushikan (うまい鮨勘).

The other thing that is great about going to Sendai is you can take the fastest Shinkansen (新幹線), the Hayabusa (はやぶさ). It does 320kph (199mph) along the way in quiet comfort; its absolutely incredible.

I don’t want to go on too much of a rave, but I think westerners probably don’t know about just how incredible the Japanese bullet trains are. They’re sort of overbuilt and over-engineered in a typically Japanese way that highlights one of the reasons why I like it in Japan so much. To clarify, as far as I can tell, its the safest form of transportation ever created. The busiest line runs between Tōkyō and Ōsaka and it runs about 365 trains with about 500,000 passengers every single day. It has been running continuously for 57 years (since 1964) and it has never had a single death due to derailment, fire, crash, etc. Furthermore, despite Japan’s bad weather and propensity for earthquakes, its average delay over a year is about 24 seconds. All of this precision and safety comes at a price though. The one-way trip from Tōkyō to Ōsaka with a regular seat is ¥14,320 ($126). Yet 500,000 people ride it every day. That’s another thing that is great about Japan, things are nicer because people pay more for nicer things. (Source for figures in this paragraph)

Ok, rave over. I didn’t even take the train between Tōkyō to Ōsaka, I took the newer, better, faster train that goes between Tōkyō and Hakodate, the Hayabusa. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any video while I was doing 320kph but I found this YouTube video that shows what the experience is like (spoiler alert: its quiet, comfortable, and boring).

So now that I got to take a fast train and eat some delicious sushi, I got to go to my favorite ryōkan, Ichinobo Sakunami (一の坊作並). This place has amazing food, amazing baths, amazing views, etc. Because its autumn right now, there was beautiful kōyō (紅葉) and all the leaves were turning into great colors. This place is also amazing in the winter when its snowing and in the spring when there are cherry blossoms… yes I have been here for every season 💅. I could go on and on about this place, but instead I’ll just let you enjoy the photos below 📸.