Note! I said above that we stayed there in May 2010--it was actually May 2007. I meant to write the review when we returned (it was through reviews on TA that we found a number of the places at which we stayed), but time seems to get away from me.
Ryokan Marutame was a great place for my husband and I to begin (and end--we stayed there the night before we flew out of Centrair in Nagoya) a two week-long vacation in Japan. It sits right next to the Higashi Betsuin temple, which meant that each morning we were awakened by the sound of the temple bells and the monks chanting, which was really cool. It's sort of tucked in a quiet neighborhood, so if you're looking for a place close to exciting nightlife or shopping, this might not be what you're looking for.
However, if you want a slice of regular, everyday life in Japan, it's a great place to experience just that. We enjoyed a lovely traditional Japanese breakfast, cooked by the family who owns the ryokan, each morning as school kids streamed past in their uniforms on their way to school. We really enjoyed wandering around the neighborhood, checking out interesting signage and such.
The rooms were very simple--a very traditional, economical ryokan--but very clean and comfortable. A shared sink area (for brushing your teeth, washing your face, etc.) was fun when we ran into Japanese visitors, who were always eager to engage with us, even if they spoke little/no English and our Japanese wasn't much better. There's also a nice traditional bath downstairs so that you can enjoy a good soak (and if you're nervous about the whole bathing with random strangers thing, the nice thing is that you can lock the door for a private bath).
Overall, we *really* enjoyed our stay at Ryokan Marutame, and we'd stay there again in an instant. It's not full of a lot of whistles and bells, but if you're looking for a place that's friendly and affordable and that allows you to experience a traditional ryokan, I highly recommend it!
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