The experience starts the moment guests arrive: a lattice wood gate slides open at the side of the ryokan’s clean-lined façade and a serene bamboo-lined pathway leads to a stone genkan entrance, where shoes are swapped for slippers. Click here for the video
The atmosphere inside the inn, which dates back to the mid-late 1800s, is quintessentially Japanese and homely with contemporary touches, thanks to the charismatic owner Kazuo Nishida and his wife Kyoko.
The Relais & Chateaux property has sliding paper screens, tatami floors and cotton yukata gowns provided in each of the seven guestrooms, which overlook a courtyard garden. Less conventionally, jazz plays constantly in the background (Mr Nishida’s favourite music), the library is crammed with architecture tomes, modern paintings hang on walls and the meals are not served in guestrooms at low tables (as is often the case in ryokan inns), but in private dining rooms with Western-style tables and chairs.
As in all high-end ryokan, life revolves around the concept of omotenashi – the near-intuitive art of Japanese hospitality. And so staff are either invisibly discreet or bend-over-backwards helpful, depending on the situation - and always quick to help navigate the maelstrom of ryokan rules (for example, explaining which side folds over the top of the yukata gown when dressing for dinner or whether socks or slippers should be worn depending on the flooring). Mr Nishida adds a charismatic touch: over welcome matcha green tea and seasonal sweets in the library, he happily discusses everything from the inn’s history and places to visit (providing an illustrated local map) to his views on contemporary Japanese design.