This was probably the most wonderful single overnight stay my wife and I have had in 30 years of traveling together. This place is everything it says it is and more. The pictures are beautiful and unbelievable, but they just don't do justice to the place.
How can a 2-dimensional photo get across what it's like to sit in an open, airy lobby in a beautiful, well-preserved antique of a building amid the sound of rushing streams. The streams rush through the building! There are covered wooden bridges (from which you can view the streams and the koi below) that connect various parts of the building.
The building itself and the grounds are exquisite (our room overlooked the rushing river), but that's not the whole story.
First, I should probably tell you that this is only my fourth onsen/ryokan, so I'm not a real aficionado. It's also the most expensive night of my five-week trip in Japan. I'm not normally a big spender, so I'm not an expert on luxury ryokans. I know you can spend more (our room, with dinner and breakfast for two, was ¥44,200, which didn't include alcohol).
Still, I can't imagine what would have made this experience better.
We arrived to find our name on the sign board --the only one not in kanji. Our personal maid, Hanada, stood waiting for us dressed in a beautiful kimono (we hadn't told them when we were coming so I'm not sure how she knew to be there). Before we could say a word, our luggage was out of the taxi and in our room. We were brought to the genkan, given slippers (ones that actually fit my size 12 feet!!), invited to sit on the lobby couch, handed hot towels, and immediately served powdered green tea and a sweet.
After this pleasant start, we registered, and Hanada took us to our room with our handbaggage --what a beautiful walk -- and showed us around the room. It was large, beautiful, and thoughtfully appointed. There's a little entryway with stocked refrigerator, a genkan, a large main room with low table and tatami chairs, fan & TV, and calligraphy alcove.
There's a separate dressing room and closets. And on the other side of the room there's a corridor-like room (often seen in Japanese houses) with windows overlooking the river. It also had a sink, a mirror, drying racks for towels, and two chairs and a small table (for when you get sick of sitting on tatami mats).
Hanada didn't speak English, so another employee who did came in and helped orient us to the ryokan, explaining all the baths, and our choices concerning meals, and answering anhy questions we had. They told us they serve breakfast at 8 or 8:30. We chose 8. But then when they realized we were leaving on a 9 am train, they offered to serve us at 7:30. Once we were settled in the room, Hanada invited us to sit down and then served us a different kind (not powdered) of green tea.
The baths were great--we each tried the same two of the four (one indoors and one outdoors). The setting of each was beautiful and tranquil.
Meals were incredible: multi-course affairs served with impeccable care, on beautiful dishes that were carefully picked out. I can't begin to explain all the different courses. I've had excellent ryokan food as well as a kaiseki dinner before, but I do think this was the best I've ever had in Japan.
And Hanada our made was so gracious and sweet and accommodating. I'd never had a ryokan maid like this, so I don't know if what she did was standard. But even though she knew no English (other than 'my name is') and we knew little Japanese, she patiently tried to explain things to us and help us, always smiling brightly and speaking and acting with great formality and politeness, bowing to us each time she closed the sliding door. In so many ways she and the other ryokan staff members were so thoroughly thoughtful, always anticipating our every need and desire.
I could really go on and on about the food, but I don't really know what everything was called, and I know there are some photos up, so you can get an idea of it. But really, there were two things that made this an outstanding, exquisite experience: the service and thoughtfulness of the staff (they literally thought of things we wanted before we did), and the sheer physical beauty and tranquility of both the building and the natural setting.
I can't imagine a better onsen/ryokan experience!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Izu Peninsula, the nation's largest hot springs resort, is about 2-hours train ride from Tokyo. Shuzenji Hot Springs is the oldest resort in Izu. River and its traditional Japanese style wooden structures are scattered in the large garden of about 5,000 ㎡. There is more than 140 years history. Many celebrated writers and painting artist, including Yokoyama Taikan and Kawabata Yasunari, are among the frequent guests. It is located at the center of Shuzenji Hot Springs, a short distance from sightseeing spots. Arai Ryokan is the inn where you can certainly enjoy the every essence of Japanese nature of four seasons, the traditional culture, art and architecture. All guest rooms are the traditional architecture and the rooms themselves overlook either the Katsura River or the garden or the courtyard with its large pond full of carp to enjoy the beauty of each season. Among the main attractions are the baths. The main bath, the Tenpyo Dai Yokudo, are built in 1933, with all cypress, by Nara Era(the 8th century) architectural style. The outdoor bath is located in Japanese garden and the family bath can be reserved for private use. All bath are the natural hot springs. The meal is kaiseki cuisine featuring the local fresh sea food and vegetable. Both dinner and breakfast are served in guest rooms. Meat dish or vegetarian meals are available for dinner also we can serve a continental breakfast. Please make request upon booking. The Bamboo Lane which is ranked ★★ in Michelin Green Guide Japan 2009 and 2011, Shuzenji Temple of 1200 years' history are short distance from the ryokan, 3-minutes walk. Also, you can enjoy the panoramic view of Mt. Fuji and the Suruga Bay from the peak of Mt. Daruma which is 20-minutes drive from the ryokan. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Arai Ryokan Hotel Izu