I’ve written about other Tamatsukuri Onsen sweets in the past, but today I’d like to introduce my favorite. It might seem more like a summery treat, but even in cold weather I usually treat myself to these. Hence, as a little break from the incoming summer heat, I have some photos from later winter and early spring trips to the onsen area. Even on cloudy evenings, the cherry blossoms there are lovely, after all.

Although there are places in Tamatsukuri famous for their fresh seafood, cute cafe atmosphere, or even for takoyaki, my favorite is this pair of stalls directly across the Tamayu River from Yu~yu, the cheapest option for a day trip to the onsen if you’re not staying overnight at a ryokan. Although I try to visit a different day trip (higaeri) onsen every time I go for a dip instead of just passing through the area, just because Yu~yu is cheap doesn’t mean it feels cheap. Out of all the ¥400 or so price ranged places I’ve been to, the magatama motifs in the design of the indoor/outdoor baths, the waterfalls, and both dry and wet saunas make Yu~yu feel plenty ritzy so long as you don’t mind having the sky to gaze at instead of a traditional garden. However, the overall design of the building makes me think of a fishbowl in the sky. Yu~yu is not only a primary spot in the onsen area for a somewhat cheaper bathing experience, but also a spot to buy local food products (both fresh and packaged to take home and hand out as gifts), as well as an event space, a spot to buy towels if you forgot to bring them for the outdoor ashiyu (foot onsen), and it’s also one of the biggest parking areas right in the middle of the strip of fancy ryokan–just be forewarned that the parking lot can full up pretty fast on the weekend! There are additional parking lots a little further down the street as well.

Now back to the important topic–sweets. No wait, before that–I just want to add that on a really cold visit to the onsen area, the vegetable and fruit juice vendor sells some really, really nice vegetable soup in a light broth. Sipping that soup while bundled up and sitting at the ashiyu with your friends and watching the snow fall is lovely. See? I don’t just love sweets, I love veggies, too.

Now back to sweets. Allow me to introduce you to the Ice Corotto, an addictive mix of textures and complimentary refreshing flavors that change with the seasons and local availability.

Gyuuhi is very similar to mochi in that it is rice-flour based and soft and stretchy, but it is more delicate in texture, more like a Turkish Delight. I don’t always like the chewing involved for a mouthful of mochi and therefore don’t typically like to eat the ice cream balls wrapped in mochi that I know so many people adore around the world whenever they can get their hands on them at grocers that supply Japanese snacks. However, I have developed quite a soft spot (get it?) for gyuuhi, and I inwardly cheer everytime we have a wagashi at my tea ceremony lessons wrapped in the stuff.

Although gyuuhi is already wonderfully made use of in traditional style Japanese confections, it also matches a more western style sweet like vanilla ice cream very well. Just vanilla ice cream and gyuuhi would be lacking in some flavor, which is where the fruit sauce comes in. The fruit sauce is not limited to fruit–in honor of the local tea culture matcha is a pretty typical flavor, and I recall seeing Izumo ginger on the menu, too. There are usually four to five local flavors to choose from on the hand-decorated menu. Local strawberries and blueberries and grapes and figs and, while we’re at it, kiwis and mangos are all nice, but this particular day I decided to take pictures of the lovely little experience, I went with an uplifting matcha and orange combination.

Although I do like the soft and delicate, springy texture of the gyuuhi and the creamy texture of the ice cream and the thick, icy texture of the fruit sauce, the crumb coating really does pull it all together. It’s sort of like the addictive and satisfying combination of crunchy and soft textures in a Take 5 candy bar, only it’s not so sweet that it makes you feel ill–rather, it’s just sweet enough to be refreshing without being overwhelming. It does plenty to satisfy my sweet tooth.

They are ¥500 for four balls of your flavors of choice, or ¥300 for two. I find two perfectly satisfying. Although there are many charms throughout the onsen area, for me, even if I’m not taking a full bath, it’s just not a trip to Tamatsukuri without a couple little mouthfuls of these and at least a quick dip in my favorite of the free ashiyu available–this is one is right down the stairs to the spot at the Tamayu River in between the vegetable/fruit juice (and soup!) and ice corotto stalls. Just watch out, this is the hottest of the ashiyu in the area, and at its source it’s the hottest onsen water I’ve ever experienced anywhere!

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