Lodging Options

Tokyo

Shinagawa Prince Hotel

At first glance with its aquarium, movie theaters and bowling alley, the Shinagawa Prince hotel is not the typical type of hotel/ryokan that we would normally choose. And you are right. But there are three reasons why we like to stay at the Shinagawa Prince: location, location, location. Tokyo is the largest metropolitan area in the world with more than 35 million people living there (almost 1/3 of the population of Japan live in the Tokyo metropolitan area). While the public transportation system in Tokyo is excellent, if you don’t stay in the right area you can end up spending more time getting to your destinations than sightseeing. From the Shinagawa station just across the street from the hotel, you have direct access to Narita Airport, the Shinkansen (bullet trains) and easy access to many of the popular sightseeing spots in Tokyo by subway and train. And staying here will give you a well-rounded perspective when you will stay in a smaller, more traditional style accommodations. After all, these larger hotels are part of today’s Japan.

Tokyo

Hotel Villa Fontaine Roppongi

Roppongi is well known as one of Tokyo’s most popular nightlife district among foreigners, offering a large number of foreigner friendly bars, restaurants and night clubs. Roppongi and the surrounding districts of Azabu, Hiroo and Akasaka are home to many embassies and a large expat community.

Two of Tokyo’s largest recent redevelopment projects, Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown changed the district’s face over the past decade and expanded Roppongi’s appeal to a wider range of visitors and residents with their elegant and upscale retail, leisure and residential space, offices and luxury hotels.

Thanks to the appearance of several art museums, Roppongi has also developed a reputation as a cultural center. The National Art Center is Japan’s largest art museum, and together with Roppongi Hills’ Mori Art Museum and Tokyo Midtown’s Suntory Museum of Art forms the “Art Triangle Roppongi”.

The Hotel Villa Fontaine Roppongi is located right next to the Izumi Garden Tower. Here you will find fitness clubs and numerous restaurants. The Roppongi Itchome subway station is located in the basement of the hotel, and there are several other subway stations within a 10 to 15 minute walk. The Hotel Villa Fontaine Roppongi has rooms that are relatively large for Tokyo, and has complimentary Wifi.

Hakone Yumoto Onsen

Yajikitanoyu

The Yajikitanoyu, located a short five minute walk from the Hakone Yumoto train station, is a breed of new ryokans appearing at onsens all over Japan. The literal translation of the Japanese name for these new-style ryokans are “stopovers”. The primary reason the Japanese visit an onsen are the baths.

The secondary reason for visiting an onsen is the baths. As you might guess, emphasis at these new-style ryokans is placed on the baths and the bathing experience.

The emphasis at the Yajikitnoyu, like these other new-style ryokans, is also placed on the baths and the bathing experience. There are four outdoor baths and one indoor bath at the Yajikitanoyu, all with natural, thermally-heated mineral water. You will also find a large and comfortable changing room including numerous lockers with keys. No meals are served at the Yajikitanoyu (unless you include the automated vending machines in the lobby which dispense hot entrees such as noodles and other fast foods) including breakfast. The guide will help with suggestions on where you can purchase your breakfast to eat in your room.

Takayama

Asunaro

The moment you enter the Asunaro, you know you are somewhere special. The lobby is a 150-year-old farmhouse, brought in from a village in Northern Japan, renovated and reconstructed on-site. The dark-stained wooden floors, arching timber supports, and sunken-hearth fireplace give the Asunaro a very old and traditional atmosphere. This feeling is continued throughout the entire ryokan with the dark-stained wood, wooden ceilings, and exposed beams found everywhere, including in the large guest rooms. The many Hina dolls and antiques located throughout the ryokan also adds to the traditional atmosphere.

The ample meals are served in the large dining halls located on the first floor. Dinners always include Hida beef, the specialty of this area. Hida beef is the same thing as the more famous Kobe beef, and said to be every bit as good as Kobe beef. Breakfasts will include Hoba Miso, another specialty of the Takayama area. Miso paste, mixed with mountain vegetables are cooked on a magnolia leaf over an open flame. The large stone baths are across the hall from the dining hall on the first floor.

Koya-san

Daienin

Daienin was founded in the early 10th century. and is centrally located in Koya-san. The temple has a traditaional Buddhist temple-style architecture. The outer gate and entrance are carved with Japanese bush warblers and plum trees as well as the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. Plum, cherry and lilac, as well as others give color to the grounds of the temple throughout the four seasons.
Daienin is central to the tragic story of Takiguchi Nyudo and Yokobue, made famous in Takayama Chogyo’s 1894 novel titled “Takiguchi Nyudo”. Before Takiguchi Nyudo became the eighth abbot of Daienin, he was a famous and successful warrior. During his warrior days, he fell in love with Yokobue, but when he became a monk he renounced his feelings for Yokobue. But he could not forget about Yokobue, and she could not foget about him.
Yokobue soon decided to become a Buddhist nun, but shortly afterward fell sick and died. Her spirit transformed into a Japanese warbler and decided to visit Takiguchi Nyudo one last time. The bird landed on a plum tree at Daienin and called to him. When Takiguchi came to investigate, the bird fell into a well. He knew immediately it was a sign that Yokobue had passed away. The plum tree and well are still located on the temple grounds.

Koya-san

Shojoshinin

The Shojoshin-in Buddhist Temple’s history dates back more than 1,100 years. It is said to have originated as a thatched-roof cottage built by Kobo Daishi, the 9th century Buddhist monk who introduced Shingon Buddhism to Japan. It is also said Kobo Diashi spent his last night here before starting his “eternal sleep.” The Shojoshin-in is next to the main entrance of the tomb-lined pathway through Okuno-in’s cemetery, making it a convenient place for a night stroll through the cemetery. Many of the current temple’s buildings are 150-years-old, with some rooms facing a small, quiet garden. Shojin-ryori meals (vegetarian meals with no onions or garlic) are served, and everyone is invited to attend the O-inori (prayer service) held early in the morning. Dinners will usually include vegetable tempura, and Gomadofu, the specialty of Koya-san. Gomadofu is tofu mixed with sesame seed oil, topped with a small dollop of wasabi.

Meals here are served “Japanese-style”, meaning on short tables on the tatami mats. However, if you have a problem sitting on the floor, the monks will happily supply a table and chair for you.

The baths and toilets here are shared (gender separated of course). The baths are only open from 4 to 9PM in the evenings, and are not available in the morning.

A computer is not available at the Shojoshinin, but WIFI is available throughout the temple.

Osaka

Hotel Ichiei

The Hotel Ichiei is located in the heart of Minami Osaka (South Osaka), an entertainment, restaurant and shopping district, and is the perfect jumping-off point for exploring this unique and fun area of Osaka. Within a five minute walk from the ryokan is a covered shopping arcade with many restaurants and pachinko parlors. Here, you will also find Doguyasuji, selling everything you need to start and operate a restaurant, including those plastic food models that are an important part of the restaurant scene in Japan. Also, you will find Bic Camera. Bic Camera is one of those giant electronics stores Japan is famous for, and is sure to make the electronic gadget lover happy (you know who you are).

The famous Dotombori-dori, at the center of Minami Osaka with its many restaurants, is only a 10 minute walk away. While visiting the Dotumburi-dori, be sure to look for the Ebisu Bridge. This bridge will lead you to a jumble of tall flashing neon signs, strongly evoking the movie Bladerunner. From nearby the bridge, you can also board a boat to cruise the canals and tour the surrounding area while enjoying the lights.

The Hotel Ichiei is a peaceful island in a sea of modern megalopolis. The large, comfortable lobby located on the eighth floor is a relaxing place to plan the evening’s activities or just monitor the chaos of the surrounding area through its floor to ceiling windows. However, the Hotel Ichiei does not have public baths.  The Hotel Ichiei does have a computer in the lobby, and WIFI is available throughout the ryokan.

Miyajima Island

Ryoso Kawaguchi

This 300 year-old home, with whitewashed walls, wood floors, and exposed beams, has a traditional atmosphere. The gracious and welcoming current  innkeepers are the ninth-generation of the Kawaguchi family who have managed the ryokan. The dining room overlooks a garden courtyard, while the third floor lounge has a view of the five-storied pagoda. The meals served here are the best on the itinerary.

The inn has two family baths on the first floor. A family bath is a Japanese-style bath that can be locked and used privately. This allows couples and/or families (hence the name) to use the baths privately. The baths, like most other Japanese-style baths have shower facilities as well if you don’t want to use the baths. The rooms at the Kawaguchi have only a sink and toilet.

The Kawaguchi is centrally-located on Miyajima Island on a quiet back street, within a short walking distance of all the major sights on the island, and only one block from the Omotesando shopping street.

The Kawaguchi has a coin-operated computer, and WIFI throughout the ryokan.

Miyajima Island

Mori-no-Yado

Mori-no-yado literally translates to “Inn of the Woods.” This name aptly describes the tranquil and peaceful setting of this ryokan, which is surrounded by a small grove of trees, a park and a Shinto Shrine. From the outside, the ryokan has a modern look, but the inside has a definite Japanese feel. The spacious lobby looks out onto a small Japanese garden, complete with a koi-filled pond. The spacious baths overlook another small Japanese garden and a hillside with countless trees.

The western or Japanese-style breakfasts are served in the restaurant on the first floor, and dinners are served in one of the many dining halls Japanese-style. Due to the ryokan’s proximity to the ocean, fish is usually the main part of the meal. The Mori-no-yado is within easy walking distance of all the sights on Miyajima Island but about a 25 minute walk from the ferry dock.

There is not a computer available at the Mori-no-Yado, and WIFI is available in the lobby only. Ask at the front desk for the password.

Kyoto

Sakura

The Sakura Ryokan is located in a quiet residential neighborhood on a quiet side street just a short 15 minute walk north of the Kyoto train station.  It is also located  between two of the largest Buddhist temples in Japan (Higashihonji and Nishihonganji). Because of this, the area is also known for its numerous shops selling home altars and Buddhist paraphernalia.

The Sakura is new (about 2 years old), but is designed to resemble “Kyomachiya” (Kyoto town home) architecture that originated in Kyoto hundreds of years ago. This distinctive architecture allows the Sakura to blend into the surrounding neighborhood, making it seem like it has been there for many years.

The Sakura serves only western-style breakfasts in the lobby at  the large wooden tables. The Sakura does not have common baths, but there are several public baths a short walk from the ryokan. There is even one with an outdoor bath as well as an electrified bath. You can ask the front desk for their locations.

Because Kyoto is a smaller city with more than 1 million people, the density of Kyoto is similar to Tokyo. As a result the rooms here are smaller, and about the same size as the rooms in Tokyo.

The Sakura has two computers and WIFI in the lobby. They also have an apartment-sized washer and dryer on the first floor as well.

Kyoto

Heianbo

Location, Location, Location. You couldn’t ask for a better location. The Heianbo is less than a 5 minute walk from Kyoto station, the transportation hub of Kyoto. But even better yet, it is located on a narrow side street allowing the ryokan to blend into the surrounding residential neighborhood.

The Heianbo has a distinct Japanese-style architecture both inside and outside, complete with an arched bridge spanning the garden between the lobby and the guest rooms.

Only Japanese-style breakfasts are served at the Heianbo in the dining room. The Heianbo has two traditional-style public baths (gender separated) available for use.

Because Kyoto is a smaller city with more than 1 million people, the density of Kyoto is similar to Tokyo. As a result the rooms here are smaller, and about the same size as the rooms in Tokyo.