Honjin Hiranoya Kachoan
We stayed at Honjin Hiranoya Kachoan for 2 nights in February 2015. It is ideally situated, just around the corner from Takayama Jinya Morning Market, and steps away from the Nakabashi Red Bridge and historic Takayama Old Town.
On the one hand, Honjin Hiranoya Kachoan is a ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese inn. Ryokans usually feature traditional Japanese atmosphere and appearance, public baths, multi-course kaiseki dinners, and rooms with woven-straw flooring and futon mats. However, Honjin Hiranoya Kachoan also has a touch of modernity. This is a place where the past meets the present.
Honjin Hiranoya Kachoan occupies a six-floor building with 28 rooms. The building, built in 1993, is nothing special from the outside and is of no historical interest. However, on the inside of this building, they have managed to create a very special atmosphere and provide guests with a memorable experience.
The four of us stayed in the royal suite, which consists of two spacious, nicely decorated rooms, including a dressing area and huge bathroom. The interior decor was a nice mixture of Japanese and Western styles.
On arrival you leave your shoes at the entrance and use provided slippers in the hallways, which you must remove before entering your room. Be prepared to remove your shoes often in Japan. :)
The en-suite living room has a sofa, low table, chairs and TV. Upon arrival, and also the next evening when we came in from a day out at Shirakawa-go, hot green tea and sweets were served for us.
Most of the ryokan’s rooms have tatami floors and futon mats, but in the royal suite there are two Western double beds.
The bathroom is huge! Can we even call it a mere bathroom? It’s more like a private SPA with two different kinds of baths, showers, and a mist sauna. It even has a TV to watch while having a soak in the jacuzzi.
Kimonos like the one Mia is wearing in the photo, as well as yukata and even socks, were provided by the ryokan for all of us.
Breakfast was our favorite meal of the day here. Indeed, it was more than just a meal for us; it was a unique experience, served in a traditional private room with tatami floors and a low Japanese table. Kachoan offers a choice of a Japanese or Western breakfast. The kids tried the Western breakfast one morning, but we all concluded that the Japanese breakfast was much better.
Japanese breakfast is quite a spread and the dishes change from day to day. The young lady who served us breakfast spoke some English, enough to explain each dish and how to eat it. We were also given a printed menu. Here is an example of what we had one morning:
- 100% pure Apple Juice from the HIGUCHI apple farm in Hida Takayama
- Homemade 100% pure tomato Juice
- Fresh milk from the Takayama farm association
- Fresh Tea or Coffee
- Homemade Tofu (from bean curd)
- Rolled egg, cooked in Japanese soup stock
- Renowned Hoba miso (soup served over a magnolia obovata leaf)
- Fresh Iwona River fish to grill
- A selection of fresh vegetables including spinach, ginger, carrots, and pickles
- Rice or rice porridge
- Miso soup
- Dessert: Fruit jelly with beans
To prepare the Takayama region specialty, Hoba miso, the vegetables and miso should be mixed on a magnolia leaf while grilling. It’s ready to eat when the food is piping hot, and is best enjoyed when served on top of rice.
Once the Hoba miso is ready and the magnolia leaf is removed from the grill, fresh river fish can be cooked.
Unfortunately, dinners were a bit of a disappointment. The kaiseki dinner on our first evening was very delicious – especially the Hida beef – but it was served in a room with a Western table and lacked Japanese atmosphere. On our second evening we weren’t offered Japanese dinner at all, but rather a choice between French cuisine and sushi. The kids weren’t into the sushi, so we decided to go with the French cuisine. Later on we were able to convince the kids to go for the sushi, but the hotel didn’t let us change our order. That’s just awkward – we were locked in to our dinner choices from the time of check-in. Anyway, the French dinner was served at a restaurant 5 minutes’ drive from the ryokan and we were the only people there, which felt a bit strange. But the food was good :)
Kids of all ages are welcome. Kid sized clothes and slippers are offered upon arrival to wear at the hotel if desired (not mandatory, but we enjoyed wearing them for breakfast and dinner). Kids also get gift bags. Breakfasts and dinners are different for kids – smaller and simpler.
A free shuttle service from JR Takayama Station is provided.