Kokuya ryokan is a Japanese Inn with 400 years of history at the center of a charming hot springs resort town. This place is well maintained and full of tradition.
There are 19 traditional rooms on the property, 9 of which have private outdoor hot spring baths. The Shinanoji room, where we stayed, is the biggest room in the ryokan. It is very authentic and was perfect for the four of us. Room size in Japan is measured in tatami mats, which you can see for yourself on the floor. The Shinanoji room is 16 tatami mats in size and has traditional Japanese interior design, including a kotatsu table (a low, heated table), futon beds which were made up whilst we were at dinner, a tokonoma (a recessed alcove decorated with artistic items and a flower vase), and sliding doors.
The best thing about our room was the private open air onsen. Our stone bath onsen looked so natural and serene in the backyard, and was so hot and relaxing. Even the kids liked it. Before coming to Kokuya, we’d never thought that we would be bathing outdoors under falling snow. We decided to book the Shinanoji room in the first place because it was the only room that also had an indoor bath. It was such an eye opener and turned out to be one of the best things we’ve experienced in Japan!
The shower was also outdoors, right next to the onsen. Taking showers was a very cold, but very memorable, experience :)
We also had a pond with carps in our backyard.
Ryokan has 6 shared hot spring baths and 2 baths that can be used privately. The springs emerge from 6 different sources, two of which are right under the building. These can be seen through a glass window in the floor on the way to the dining room.
We were also given a peculiar key to access public baths in the town. See that huge wooden key chain with a little key attached to it in Mia’s hands in the photos below? That’s the key :) The local legend says that good fortune, such as protection from evil, longevity, safe birth and a healthy baby, comes to those who visit all nine public onsens. “Passport for round bath visit” (巡浴手形) “to protect you from bad luck” (厄除祈願） was written on our wooden key chain. Yukata, tanzen (outer robe), tabi socks, geta (wooden clogs), towels, and other bath amenities are provided by Kokuya ryokan to use during one’s stay.
Eggs are slowly cooked by hot spring water at the entrance to Kokuya ryokan. You can buy and try these soft boiled eggs for yourself.
The food, both breakfast and dinner, was excellent! Not only delicious, but also a truly authentic experience. A diverse range of small, beautifully presented dishes never seemed to stop coming. For breakfast there was a choice between Western and Japanese breakfast. We had the Japanese breakfast both mornings. We don’t speak any Japanese, but Kokuya ryokan’s staff did their best to serve us and explain what we were eating and how to cook it.
Kaiseki dinner is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner prepared from local seasonal ingredients. We had two kaiseki dinners during our stay, and both were perfect! No two dishes were the same.
Kokuya ryokan welcomes kids of all ages. However, please note that the place is peaceful and quiet. All rooms in Kokuya ryokan can accommodate families of four or more people. Our kids loved everything – the futon bed, dressing in Japanese clothes (kid sizes are available), taking outdoor baths, having traditional meals. And they also have got some presents.
Transportation from/to Yudanaka Station and also to Snow Monkey Park is provided.
The staff were very helpful and friendly. When we were leaving, they gave us a packed lunch of rice balls and local desserts for our train journey. How sweet is that?!
We stayed in Kokuya ryokan for 2 nights in February 2015.