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Hello Kitty Onsen - Shima Grand Hotel (Japan) - Bumble Bee Mum

Being a huge Hello Kitty fan, I have always tried to include some Hello Kitty themed activities in my travel.  Such as visiting Sanrio Puroland in Tokyo, Hello Kitty Cafe in Taipei, Sanrio Hello Kitty Town in Malaysia etc.  Never mind that I’m the only female in the family, the boys just get dragged along on my Hello Kitty crazes.

 

In Japan, the land where Hello Kitty originated, there is no lack of Hello Kitty themed activities. I have a bucket list of Hello Kitty themed travel ideas in Japan, and visiting the Hello Kitty Onsen is one of the items on the list.

So for our self-drive trip around Japan last December, one of the first things I did was to book a night at Shima Grand Hotel where the Hello Kitty Onsen was located!

About Shima Onsen

Shima Onsen is a pretty small onsen town in the Gunma Prefecture that I consider off the beaten track in Japan.

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The word ‘Shima’ means 40,000.  This is because the hot spring water at Shima Onsen is said to be able to cure 40,000 types of illnesses!

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The town was not very touristy and somewhat rustic, drawing mostly a domestic crowd.  The only point of interest I found was the Onsen Manju Kobo, which sold manju (buns) made with the Shima Onsen’s spring water.

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Stepping into Shima Grand Hotel

Initially, I was worried about whether Shima Grand Hotel catered well to foreigners, especially since they weren’t listed on international booking sites like Agoda, Expedia, Booking.com etc.   I made my booking through Rakuten.

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My fears were quickly allayed once we checked in and was presented with a sheet of English instructions regarding dining and use of hotel amenities.  While the staff did not speak much English, there really wasn’t much to speak to them about since everything we needed to know was on the instruction sheet.

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In smaller and older onsen towns, the ryokans were generally filled with elderly Japanese folks. When we were in the lift with a huge group of elderly Japanese men, they looked at us very curiously and one of them decided to ask us if we were from Tokyo.  When we said Singapore, the whole group of them went, “EHHHHHH????” It was pretty hilarious.  But it goes to show how rare foreigners, especially with kids in tow, were in this area.  However, this anecdote was in no way reflective of how kids-friendly Shima Grand Hotel turned out to be.

Staying with Kids

At the lobby, we could chose our Yukata and slippers and MF managed to find one his size. But there wasn’t any small enough for MY.

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At the dining hall, kids utensils and high chairs were provided.  In fact, if you have a baby, they could even arrange a cot next to your dining table! No kidding! The family on the table next to us had a baby and they placed a cot next to their table so that the baby could sleep comfortably while the rest of the family had their buffet dinner in peace.

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During dinner, there was a section in the buffet with low tables for kids where you could find candy floss and chocolate fondue.

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Another bonus was the stamp rally booklet.  If you follow my Japan travel blog, you will know that my boys LOVE stamp rallies.

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The stamp rally activity helped to keep the kids occupied after dinner.

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The room was tatami style.  I like staying tatami style with the kids because I can opt for no bedding for the kids (hence saving some money), but there is space for the kids to roll around.  Never mind if they roll off the ‘bed’.

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Hello Kitty Onsen

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Okay, let’s get to the main reason why we were staying at Shima Grand Hotel: The Hello Kitty Onsen.  Usually I don’t take photos of onsens because.. well.. photos are generally not allowed in onsens.  But C’mon! This is a Hello Kitty Onsen! And I went at a time when everyone was busy having dinner and the onsen was totally empty.  So yeah, I took tons of photos.

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I peeked into the changing room to ensure there was nobody inside before I brought my camera in.  Usually there will be naked men / women walking around the changing rooms so don’t just barge in with a camera in hand!

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If there is someone else around, there are lockers outside for you to lock up your camera and wait until the coast is clear.

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Check check.  Yup, coast was clear.

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MY and I went around the changing room taking photos with the different mirrors.  For evidence that we were here.

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We checked out the details.  Because when it comes to themes, it is all about the details.

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Look, there was even a Hello Kitty cot! What did I say about Shima Grand Hotel being kids-friendly?

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Moving on to the onsen itself, again, there were Hello Kitty mirrors at the shower area.

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Sorry for the crappy photos – the room was totally filled with steam!! I tried my best.  This is why I never really liked indoor onsens.

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The onsen was frankly quite small and other than the Hello Kitty pictures around, this was really not my kind of onsen.  I prefer outdoor onsen overlooking beautiful scenery.  This was too stuffy for my liking.

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After a quick soak in the onsen, there was fresh Shima Onsen spring water for us to drink.  Yummy, please cure the 40,000 illnesses in me!

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And what better way to complete the experience than with shopping for some EXCLUSIVE Hello Kitty omiyage (souvenirs)!

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Meals

Our stay included buffet dinner and breakfast.  The dinner was pretty decent, with the usual free-flow of sashimi I would expect from Japanese ryokans.

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There were self-cooking stations.

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As well as a live cooking station which was serving freshly fried tempura.  The tempura was my FAVOURITE dish here.  I ate lost-count-of-the-number servings.  It was the first time I had apple tempura!

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There was carving station serving roast beef.

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And even crabs! I felt like I was in Hokkaido again!

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As for breakfast, I frankly don’t remember much of it.  The only thing I remembered was the croissant with Hokkaido whipped butter.  Seriously, give me Hokkaido whipped butter with anything and I won’t need anything else.

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In Summary…

Shima Grand Hotel is a slightly dated onsen ryokan, so don’t expect any modern and fanciful furnishing.  But in general when it comes to Japanese ryokan, the dated ones are much more affordable than the modern ones.  So give and take.  A stay here cost about 10,000 yen per pax per night (with fluctuations depending on season) with half-board.  I thought it was pretty value-for-money!

Someone asked me before if the Hello Kitty onsen was just a marketing gimmick.  I mean.. OF COURSE IT IS! All Hello Kitty related stuff are gimmicky.  No? If you are looking for an enjoyable onsen experience, I will be honest and tell you that the Hello Kitty onsen, which was small and enclosed, wasn’t very enjoyable compared to some other onsen I have visited that were outdoors and overlooking nature. But wait, the Hello Kitty onsen wasn’t the only onsen at Shima Grand Hotel.  They have other onsen (which I didn’t try out because, well, I came here for Hello Kitty onsen) which look more enjoyable.

If you are a Hello Kitty fan, go check out Hello Kitty Onsen at Shima Grand Hotel once for the fun of it.  Been here done that! I am sure glad I striked off one item from my bucket list.  And it wasn’t even that expensive.

Information on Shima Grand Hotel:

Address: 〒377-0601 群馬県吾妻郡中之条町四万4228

Map: Click here for Google map location

Tel: 0279-64-2211

Map Code (what is this?): 554 063 070

Getting There:  The nearest train station is Nakanojo, from which it is a 40 minutes bus ride to Shima Onsen  (See details). The bus station for Shima Onsen is right in front of Shima Grand Hotel.

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Official Websites: Homepage | Facebook Page

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Hello Kitty Onsen - Shima Grand Hotel (Japan) - Bumble Bee Mum

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Supposed to be a stay-home mom, but hates staying home. Definition of parenting is bringing the boys out for 'experiential learning' in Singapore, Japan and wherever else in the world her husband can afford to pay for.

35Comments

  1. Susan says:

    A Hello Kitty themed onsen! Now that’s certainly the first time I’m hearing about it and I would be busy taking photos if I were you. But I also agree that the outdoor hot spring are so different. I tried both and give me a beautiful scenery anytime as I soak my troubles away.
    Susan recently posted…I survived my first 10km run!My Profile

  2. Veron Zhen says:

    Hats off to the Japanese. Moms with daughters be like.. Everything is soooo kawaii ne!!

  3. Geraldine says:

    I need to drag all my boys to hello kitty themed places too, and ignore the husband’s complaints. What a pretty onsen! I especially love the changing room with the pretty mirrors 🙂

  4. MummyTravels says:

    I can’t believe there’s a whole Hello Kitty themed onsen – Japan has the best quirky places to visit. Sounds great for families too I’d you are a fan. #citytripping
    MummyTravels recently posted…City Tripping #23My Profile

  5. mmlittlee says:

    It’s good that you are the one planning the travel itin! You can go anywhere you want! Haha
    mmlittlee recently posted…Chinese New Year Photography TipsMy Profile

  6. Evelyn says:

    Such a cutesy onsen! I already went gaga over “hello kitty” airplane flights to taiwan; can’t imagine a hello kitty overload in a hotel! It is really nice that your 2 boys will “enjoy” hello kitty with you!
    P.S: Really enjoy reading your informative travelogues. 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Thanks! I haven’t had the chance to take the Eva Kitty planes yet! Got to do it some day. The boys are still young. I’m sure there will come a day where they will object following me on my Hello Kitty excursions. So I try to strike off as many of such places as possible while they are still young!

  7. Phoebe says:

    I’m not a Hello kitty fan but I must say they package it pretty well. I love tatami style rooms as there’s more walking space and the kids have more space to roll. Everything in Japan looks so lovely and neat
    Phoebe recently posted…PLAY! Exploration around Singapore with CanonMy Profile

  8. Pooja says:

    This is fantastic and visiting Japan is on my list. Surely my little girl will adore this Hello Kitty theme stay.
    Pooja recently posted…Kids can own a car with Friso!My Profile

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Awww.. I wish I had a girl who shared my passion for Hello Kitty. I sometimes feel a bit guilty when my boys get excited over Hello Kitty.. Like what have I done to my boys?!

  9. Lup Wai says:

    OMG!! Hello Kitty themed onsen!! Reading your blog makes me want to go there now!! My girl will be so happy and I love Japan! All in one place and everyone loves it 🙂
    Lup Wai recently posted…ter ter ter T!My Profile

  10. mummybean says:

    I chuckled when you said it was definitely gimmicky! Gimmicky or not, it certainly is cute! I’m not the HK fan but my daughter is and she would love those souvenirs.
    mummybean recently posted…A Taste of Old Singapore: Afternoon Tea at The Clifford PierMy Profile

  11. Mandy says:

    I was obsessed with Hello Kitty as a kid, so I found this so adorable! Thank you for sharing! 🙂
    Mandy recently posted…Hotel Angelo – Prague, Czech RepublicMy Profile

  12. Indrani says:

    This is the most amazing collection that I have seen on this theme.
    Some obsessions can be done up so creatively that you feel like pursuing it.
    Thank you for hosting.

  13. Emma Raphael says:

    Wow, that place really is a Hello Kitty lovers dream! We visited Japan a couple of years ago, but opted to visit Totoro at Studio Ghibli rather than Hello Kitty! My son had to choose too! 😀 We did stay at an onsen though, in Izu, which was incredible! Great pictures! 🙂 #citytripping

  14. I love how much Hello Kitty themed things there are in Japan. I even read about a Hello Kitty maternity ward at a hospital. Great review and really helpful insight and advice about onsens in general.
    Jennifer Howze recently posted…7 reasons to visit Aerial Extreme, StaffordshireMy Profile

  15. I had moderate Hello Kitty love as a kid, but definitely enough to think this is SO COOL!!! 😀 Thank you for sneaking around the non-photo areas with your camera, the captures you got are awesome! What a fun and unique getaway with your kids, and it looks like your boys are enjoying it just as much as you are! 🙂 Thanks for linking up with us!
    Christy Swagerty (whatupswags) recently posted…German Swag 101: Updates & Free Stuff!My Profile

    • bumblebeemum says:

      The boys enjoyed it so much that it worried me a little. Hahaha.. They even had some Hello Kitty bows at the side for you to pin to your hair to take photo and my boy asked me to pin it on him. -_-

  16. That certainly is a paradise for a Hello Kitty lover! And apple tempura?! Yes please.

  17. Oh my gosh, everything is in Hello Kitty even the cot! Japan has so many unique things doesn’t it. Just reading your post makes me want to return (again). The hotel seems very child-friendly too, always a bonus. Thanks for linking in with #MyFavouriteTrip Polly x
    Our Seaside Baby recently posted…We’re going to Amsterdam!My Profile

  18. Sandra Ng says:

    Hi Bumble bee mum,
    I enjoyed reading your travel blog on Japan. Last Year we went Hokkaido and stayed in tomamu( after we read about it from your post)! Super enjoyed it!!!!

    Do you think it is better to travel to hello kitty onsen by train? or bus? from Tokyo?

    I am planning a trip to Hokkaido again in Dec 2016! ( with my mum, 4 and 7 year old)
    Looking at 9-22 Dec 2016.
    Do you think it is enough to Osaka-tyo-hokkaido?

    Day 1 osaka
    Day 2 Universal studio
    Day 3 Lego osaka
    Day 4 Osa- tyo
    Day 5 sanrio puro land
    Day 6 And 7 Disney land
    Day 8 Tyo to hokkaido
    Day 9 (16-22)- any suggestion?
    we did lake tayo ,white choco factory, music box museum, tomamu last year.

    Hope to get some advise from you.

    Thank you.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      To get to Shima Onsen from Tokyo, you need to take the train to Nakanojo station and transfer to the bus bound for Shima Onsen (四万温泉). To find the fastest train route to Nakanojo, you can use hyperdia:
      http://www.hyperdia.com/en/

      For Hokkaido, I would recommend you visit Eastern Hokkaido (Lake Akan and Akan National Park) in winter. The cranes gather at Tsurui (between Kushiro and Lake Akan) in winter, it’s quite interesting to watch and you don’t get to see them gathering at the feeding grounds if you visit in Summer – only in winter.

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