Japanese ryokan are a real treat to stay in. These traditional inns offer you a chance to sleep in a mindfully decorated Japanese-style room, often in a beautiful natural location surrounded by trees or mountains, and with the added benefit of onsite hot springs or private baths. Plus, ryokan are often known for their delicious, locally sourced multi-course meals, which might make a night’s stay at a ryokan a little more expensive than your average hotel, but the price is definitely worth it.
Some ryokan are located deep in the mountains or down in the forests, and are known as kakure-yado, or “hidden inns”. The small ones with less than 20 rooms are perfect for when you need to just leave the city and all its people behind and get away from work and life. The nature of their existence can make them hard to find, but luckily Rakuten Travel has released a list of the top 5 guest-rated, small kakure-yado in Japan, so you don’t have to look that far for the perfect retreat.
Tied for 1st: Gensen Kakenagashi Bashuku Choseian (Wakayama Prefecture)
Though situated in the popular beach resort of Shirahama in Wakayama prefecture, Choseian is its own private retreat within the bustle. The onsen resort gets its title of “Gensen Kakenagashi Bashuku” as it draws its free-flowing hot spring water from one of the legendary Three Ancient Springs, Nanki-Shirahama Onsen. It has just seven rooms, so you will feel tucked away from the world in this little inn.
Their meals are nothing to sniff at either. Their proximity to the sea allows them to serve fresh Japanese spiny lobster and abalone, and they also serve high quality wagyu beef from Kumano prefecture as well as fresh vegetables, all cooked as local cuisine, which comes very highly rated. Reviewers wrote:
“Each and every dish was prepared from the heart, and I was highly satisfied by both the quality and the portions.”
“I could really get a sense of the season within the meals. I was very satisfied.”
Tied for 1st: Shizukana Mori no Onsen Kakure-yado Sora no Uta (Yamanashi Prefecture)
Nestled among the mountains of Yamanashi, where Mt Fuji proudly stands, is the second ryokan tied for first place on the list, Sora no Uta. As the “Shizukana Mori no Onsen” name suggests, this inn is far enough away from civilization that it is surrounded by quiet forests, and is the perfect place to soak in the beauty of nature and forget about the stresses of everyday life.
Of course, this ryokan also offers onsen, including a private, reservation-only bath where you can take your time to unwind. Their meals include local Yamanashi cuisine such as hoto noodles, grilled charr, and horse sashimi. Reviewers said about this inn:
“The stars and the moon were so beautiful, and I could smell the mountain air and listen to the cry of insects and the gurgle of the river. I had a really pleasant stay.”
“A fantastic inn where you can get away from all the hustle and bustle and really relax.”
3rd: Izukogen Umi no Mieru Petit Hotel Saint Tropez (Shizuoka Prefecture)
Saint Tropez may not look like a ryokan, since it’s designed more in the image of an English inn, but it’s got an onsen and dinner is offered onsite, which makes it more like a themed ryokan than a traditional one. Located on the ever-rising cliffs of the western Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka, this hotel has rooms with a view of the ocean beyond, and its rural location is perfect for stargazing in the private, reservation-only, open-air bath.
Only four parties at a time can stay in this hotel, so staying here feels like you’re in a private retreat. The meals here are exquisite, according to reviewers, as all of the dishes are western-style and hand-made from start to finish, including the fruit wine. Guests had this to say about Saint Tropez:
“The room was large, and my wife and I really enjoyed the Jacuzzi bath. Also, we really loved the huge open air bath, which is a little ways away from the hotel.”
“The food was so good! Even though I was full I wanted to keep eating. It would be a shame to stay here without eating dinner!”
Tied for 4th: Resort Inn Stella (Nagano Prefecture)
At 1,500 meters above sea level, Resort Inn Stella is the perfect place to stay at any time of year. Its elevation makes it wonderful in summer to get away from the heat, and excellent to take advantage of Nagano’s fantastic ski slopes in winter. It’s also close to popular nature spots like Shirakaba Lake and Kurumayama Mountain, so it offers plenty of opportunities to be immersed in nature.
Reviewers love the meals here, which are prepared with locally sourced ingredients. Particularly popular is the Wagyu Beef Stew, which visitors say they want to eat over and over again. There are also two kinds of onsen: one on an observation deck, and one hidden away, but they are both private and by reservation only, so you can enjoy some quality time away from other people while melting your stresses away in the hot waters. Reviewers said:
“The family bath was by reservation only, so my children really enjoyed having the a big bath to themselves, and we could really take our time. I was also really impressed because everything at dinner was absolutely delicious.”
“Everything was great, from the food, to the room, the bath, and the customer service on part of the owners. If I have the chance I will be coming back.”
Tied for 4th: Kamai Onsen Ippen-An (Kyoto Prefecture)
At the very northern tip of Kyoto Prefecture, just inland from the Sea of Japan, Ippen-An is a small inn with just seven rooms, making it the perfect location for a private getaway. The large, open free-flowing hot spring bath is just as warm as the customer service here, so you will likely feel any tension in your body completely dissipate by the end of your stay. They also have an open air bath in a private garden, where you can look up at the night sky as you bathe.
The inn has both Japanese-style rooms and mixed Japanese and Western rooms, so you can choose whichever one you prefer. Enjoy a relaxing stay here by yourself or with your loved ones, and feel refreshed by the time you head home. Reviewers loved the privacy of the place:
“The rooms felt very private as they were stretched along a long building, and since I had a room with the private, free-flowing onsen, it was perfect.”
“I had the crab course for dinner, and it wasn’t your usual kind of fair with crab legs and whatnot. They used crab in all kinds of different ways. It was so good I stuffed myself to the brim.”
These locations are all remote and may require some time and patience to get to, but chances are if you book a room they will help you get there with shuttles or driver services, so you can feel relaxed from the very beginning of your vacation.
When the holidays have you stressed or you need a breather from work, take a weekend to stay at one of these hidden gems to shake off the tension, and if you don’t want to leave Tokyo, check out this luxurious Tokyo ryokan. Whatever you choose, you can be sure you won’t regret it!
Source: Rakuten Travel via PR Times
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