Five Best: Japanese Ryokan

Fine food, romance and relaxation come together in these minimalist inns.

Danielle Demetriou
Saturday 01 July 2006 00:00 BST

Ginrinso Hokkaido

The elegant Ginrinso is a former private residence built in the 19th century in Otaru, on the island of Hokkaido. Beneath a temple-style roof, every room is decorated in traditional ryokan-style, with touches of regional craftwork. But best is the sweeping panorama. From its elevated position on a natural hot spring, it has expansive views over Ishikari Bay. Japanese and international cuisines are served while a karaoke bar and games room provide alternative escapes.

Ginrinso, 1-1 Sakura, Otaru-shi, Hokkaido (00 81 35368 0790; Doubles start at US$998 (£587), half board.

Yoshimizu Tokyo

Hidden amid a forest of department stores in the Ginza district of the capital is an unexpected gem. Yoshimizu provides a serene breath of fresh air in contrast to the city's business hotels. The traditional inn is filled with light and natural furnishings. Non-chemical tatami mats, organic cotton futons, bamboo sliding screens and mud walls set the tone in the 11 guest rooms. And as in most ryokan, there is not a telephone or a television in sight. Guests put on a cotton robe (yukata) and head to a traditional cedar and stone bath on the top floor. Seasonal organic food is served in the restaurant while lectures, concerts and meetings take place in the events hall.

Yoshimizu, 3-11-3 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo (00 81 33248 4432; Doubles without a bathroom start at 21,200 yen (£100) rising to 27,500 yen (£130) with a bathroom, both including breakfast.

Gora Kadan Hakone

Stylish and fashionable, Gora Kadan artfully combines the old with the new. Located in a green valley of cherry and pine trees at the foot of Mount Fuji, it is housed in an elegant 1920s former summer retreat. The 44 rooms have tatami mats, red lacquer boxes, sliding screens and cypress baths.

Gora Kadan, 1300 Gora, Hakone, Ashigarashimogun, Kanagawa (00 81 460 23331; Double rooms booked via Relais & Chateaux (00 800 2000 0002; start at 114,000 yen (£540) half board.

Hoshi Hokuriku

The world's oldest inn - as confirmed by the Guinness Book of Records - its origins lie in a dream of a divine spring that came to the Buddhist monk Taicho Daishi in 717AD. More than 1,200 years and 46 generations of hosts later, the inn is a thriving 100-room retreat in the hot-spring village of Awazu on Mount Hakusan on the west coast of Honshu island. Ageing gargoyles known as onigawara ward off evil spirits at the entrance. Yukata are produced on arrival before traditional tea ceremonies take place. Every room has a name poetically plucked from Saijiki, a book of words defining seasons in haiku. Its focal point is the large outdoor hot spring baths and the health-giving powers of its water.

Hoshi Ryokan, Awasa Onsen, Komatsu, Ishikawa, Hokuriku (00 81 761 65 1111; Doubles start at 58,800 yen (£277), half board.

Asaba Shizuoka

A pebbled path leads guests into the heart of Asaba, a ryokan dating back to 1675, but updated with contemporary interiors. It is situated near the hot spring (onsen) village of Shuzenji and bordered by a bamboo forest on one side and a lagoon on the other. Each of the 19 rooms bears the hallmarks of a traditional inn: empty but for tatami mat flooring, a low table or a futon depending on the time of day. There are also stunning forest views. A floating cypress-wood Noh stage over the water boosts tranquillity. There are also natural baths both indoors and out.

Asaba, 3450-1 Shuzenji Izu-shi, Shizuoka (00 81 35368 0790; Doubles start at US$1,130 (£665), half board.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in