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All reviews father and son the river the bus japanese style location is beautiful after a long day stayed here for nights family run the owner stay there again breakfast and dinner stop onsen accommodation nature meals bath
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Reviewed 2 July 2018

Kawayu Onsen is a beautiful village in the Kii Mountains of Wakayama, right on the sacred walking trails of the Kumanokodo – long known as a place of pilgrimage for Japanese and now very popular hiking for tourists from around the world. Situated on the Oto River, Kawayu Onsen has a range of accommodation, but for me the place to stay is the family run small hotel (or pension), Ashitanomori.
At Ashitanomori the owners openly welcome you and treat you like family. The owner is Hiromasa Kurisu, a spritely 7th generation local octogenarian who still works around 7 days of each week. You may think owning a pension would keep Hiromasa and his family busy enough, but he also is a forester and a farmer (tea, rice, fruit, vegetables), owning several hundred acres of forest and agricultural land. This is a classic story in rural Japan, where most younger people leave the country for white collar city jobs, leaving the older generation to maintain the family farms. With 67% of Japan’s land mass being forest and mountains (much of which is astonishingly beautiful), it’s staggering to know that 94% of the population of 128 million people now live in cities.
The earthiness of Ashitanomori goes to the heart of a traditional Japan somewhat lost now in the neon glitz of the big cities. Hiromasa built the pension himself out of his own timber, he and his wonderful wife Mutsuko, sons Kazuhiro and Kohei, and daughter-in-law Megumi, prepare and serve delicious, fresh food. Much of it is grown by themselves or their neighbours. Their home grown, picked and dried tea is also to die for.
Kawayu Onsen is a long village, set along the Oto River, which flows through a small but lovely, densely forested valley. Ashitanomori overlooks the river and in winter sits directly opposite Senninburo, a large natural hot spring bath (onsen) adjacent to the river that is open to the public, usually between December and March. The river at that time is very cold however is fine for a swim on warm summer’s day, if a little fresh. I have stayed at Ashitanomori in winter and summer, and each season offers equally distinct wonderful travel experiences. At any time of year you can borrow an Ashitanomori shovel and dig your own onsen along the edge of the river. The hot water rises through the smooth river stones and you plonk yourself in and watch the valley’s resident eagles soar in the sky above.
If you prefer a private onsen, Ashitanomori has two that are available all year around and can even accommodate a family of four.
The bedrooms are also earthy, very comfortable and welcoming at the end of a long day’s visiting shrines and temples while hiking along the Kumanokodo. There are no private bathrooms or toilets, but as the pension only accommodates a small number of people this is never an issue. There are dedicated toilets for men and and women. Everything is clean and well presented, and of course Hiromasa’s hands have placed every piece of timber in the place. There is a washing machine and dryer, located outside a window on the roof towards the back of the building. It’s not as treacherous as it sounds, more a clever use of space and there are railings for safety. But at 198cm I do struggle slightly to climb the stepladder and get through the window onto the roof, always scratching my back or bumping my head! But hey, we all need to suffer and earn our clean clothes occasionally.
Hiromasa and his family are more than willing to help guests with any of their arrangements, often driving you to the top of a mountain for a sunset or to show you the family forest or rice plantings.
Staying only one night at Ashitanomori is just not enough if you want to immerse yourself into the region that is known as “the spiritual heart of Japan”, I would suggest a minimum of two nights or even more. If you’re doing an extended walk on the Kumanokodo then you are likely soaking up the Kii Mountains pretty well, but this pension and its owners are very special, and you will come away all the better for it.
After three stays at Ashitanomori I have noticed something interesting. Invariably the guests become friends and keep in touch, such is the warmth of the place. This has occurred for me and my family every time. In fact I was so taken with Hiromasa when I first met him I asked if I could return the following year to make a documentary film about him (at my own expense). I don’t speak Japanese but I managed to shoot the film (which was another great experience) with translation provided by a great friend, Tomomi, and on my most recent visit I was able to surprise Hiromasa with the finished DVD.
If you want to get a genuine insight into rural life in Japan today, enjoy the warmest hospitality, onsens, food and stay in a beautiful location, visit Kawayu Onsen and stay at Ashitanomori.

Room Tip: Ask for a river view room
  • Stayed: June 2018, travelled with family
    • Location
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
1  Thank RealityChecksIn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 5 June 2018

This family-run guesthouse was the perfect choice for a one-night stop in the Hongu area. It is located outside the village of Hongu (5km, better reached by car), right in front of the Kawayu river and its natural onsen, providing easy access to it. The bedrooms are clean, comfortable and cozy, the natural spring bath in the guesthouse is small but lovely and has private access. Important to mention that the owner speaks very good english and is extremely friendly and helpful: he provided us with all practical info of the area (maps, timetables, itineraries...) and we saw him contacting other local places to help another customer plan his itinerary in the area. Dinner in the guesthouse is recommended, since there are not so many restaurants around. It was definitely good value for money. Funny thing: the father of the owner keeps track of the provenance of all their guests through his old atlas book, and makes you mark your hometown at check-out.

  • Stayed: May 2018, travelled as a couple
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Service
Thank elisabetsy81
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 April 2018 via mobile

We stayed in room 201 for 1 night. Everything about this place is perfect. Location, wooden architecture, delicious meals and lovely hosts. It was raining when we reached and our shoes were drenched after Kumano kodo. Our host quickly provided us with shoe dryer and hot tea. After we settled down we were shown around the property and our room. The place also has a washer dryer which might be useful. The onsen river flows right in front of the hotel and you could take a hot bath in the river, if you are not comfortable with that, there is a Japanese style onsen spa in the hotel to be used for free.

Dinner was delicious and Breakfast was sumptuous. We would definitely come here again!

Stayed: April 2018, travelled as a couple
1  Thank AnjumR22
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 April 2018

Everything about this property recommends it. Fabulous view along river, charming hosts, beautifully clean. breakfast and dinner great for taste and value. one of my favourite accommodations in Japan.

Room Tip: Ask for view of river.
Stayed: April 2018, travelled as a couple
Thank 202therese61
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 17 April 2018

Pension Ashitanomori is just a few steps away from the bus stop in and out of Kawayu Onsen. The onsen river is right in front of the Pension so it's very convenient to take a dip early in the morning or even at night if you would like to challenge walking in the dark. Ashitanomori is run by a lovely family. The father even walked us to the bus stop, waited until the bus came and told the driver where we were going. He wanted to make sure that we wouldn't get off at the wrong stop. So nice! The inside of the hotel is very clean. Our room, the shared washroom and the onsen bathroom are clean and well maintained. I like that we didn't have to share the onsen bathroom with other hotel guests while using it. You simply put the sign "occupied" at the bathroom door and then you can enjoy your onsen time on your own. This made the moment very enjoyable indeed. The dinner and breakfast were nice and reasonably priced. I enjoyed my breakfast with a great view of the onsen river. Highly recommend to anyone who plans to stay in Kawayu Onsen. I would definitely stay there again next time I go to Kawayu Onsen.

Room Tip: Try to ask for a room facing the onsen river, the view is great!
  • Stayed: April 2018, travelled with friends
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank teatania
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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