a beach off the beaten path

Spring this year has been abnormally cold. And wet. For awhile it felt like I was back in Seattle, just enduring a typical Seattle winter of cold and wet... Granted, the temperature wasn't freezing, but it hovered near it, and just above. Though Golden Week brought lovely warm weather, and the rain seems to have settled down for spring, I was in the mood for a beach vacation. With Thailand and Malaysia and other warm places out of the running for now, my husband and I settled on planning something nearby, to celebrate our first anniversary. This is no easy feat, if you want something affordable, but not cheap, plush, but not filled with tourists, and something with non-smoking rooms (of course, if you smoke, then you can have your pick of almost anything in Japan).

After a week or so of searching and e-mailing around, I finally stumbled across the Irako View Hotel, in Irago, Aichi prefecture. Aichi neighbors Shizuoka, where we live. The transportation costs were cheap, giving us more of a cushion for the hotel. After an hour and a half train ride, and an hour ride on the shuttle bus that was a bit sickening, as most bus rides are in this country, we walked into the hotel to a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean. The building seemed a bit old, as did our room, with the wood paneling a little outdated. Also, non-smoking and smoking rooms seemed to be on mixed floors rather than separate, so at night we had to stuff towels under the door so the smoke wouldn't waft into our room. The view from our room was gorgeous, and was ideal for watching the sunset.

The selling point of the hotel though, is the spa. They offer private baths you can pay to reserve for 45 minutes, and also gender separated baths, which according to my husband and I comparing, are identical. The dressing area is large and spacious, and there were never many people while we were there. The bath area itself was modern, clean, had high ceilings and was probably one of the best onsen/bath places I've been to in Japan thus far. One wall had floor to ceiling windows, with a view of the ocean, and of course, the sunset. There were two main baths inside, a jacuzzi, a bath you lay down in, and a couple saunas. Outside there was one bath that looked like an infinity pool. I sat out there the first night and watched the sun sink down over Japan and the ocean. Dreamy.

The food was ok, although I'm not much for hotel food. The downside about the place is that the hotel is up on a cliff and "town" is rather far away. My husband and I rented bikes (mama-chari) and tried riding to town, but after 45 minutes, we stopped at a conbini (convenience store), grabbed some snacks and headed back instead (which took probably near an hour or so to go back the way we came, due to the wind). Oh, and I should mention that the entire time we were biking, the view was mostly just farms. Vegetable farms, cow farms, wind farms, you name it. I thought we had entered a different world for a while.

We tried the ferry terminal for lunch, which is closer to the hotel, but there wasn't much there besides curry, udon and ramen (I did not see soba anywhere in that place the entire time we were there). The few restaurants around the area were only seafood, and we aren't huge fans of seafood aside from fish. I won't even mention the bike ride back up the hill to the hotel... well, it was walking and pushing our heavy bikes more than riding.

There is a lot of beach surrounding the entire place, making it easy to get away from crowds and enjoy some solitude. The time we were able to spend at the beach, (due to our much too long bike ride), was relaxing and warm.

All in all, it was a nice place to visit, if you stick to the beach areas and don't go gallivanting through Farmville. There was a much nicer, newer hotel in the area but we couldn't afford it, and the view, while good, just wasn't as great as ours. If anything, I wouldn't mind just going for a day trip to the spa - the highlight of the place. The hotel actually does offer day trips though. There aren't any conbinis nearby, and the hotel doesn't offer a lot in the way of snacks, so best to bring your own (which we did, but ran out). Would I go there again for a weekend? Maybe, after I've visited other places.

Just couldn't get enough of the view though. It was worth eating two and a half days worth of hotel food... and shoving bikes up the hill.

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