It was the snow monkeys that brought us to this part of Japan, then we picked the town and hotel backwards from that, and we (us from the UK, and our friends from Australia) were mighty pleased with our choices, as it gave us a fantastically immersive 24 hours in an older and more traditional way of life than in the big cities.
We arrived from Tokyo by train around midday, and had a very warm welcome with drinks. We were too early to check in, so took up the offer of an immediate transfer to the monkey park gates, where we had a great light lunch in the cafe there. Then a half hour or so walk to the monkey park, which is absolutely great, but you only need an hour or so there. Our pick-up from the hotel was at 16:00, and they dropped us off at a sake museum/shop on the edge of the town, Shibu Onsen. It was approaching dusk, when we left, and we had a delightful walk through the main street with it's several quaint shops and public onsen baths.
We however had each booked the two private onsens on the hotel roof (Y1,800 per couple for 40 minutes). It was fantastic sitting in these hot tubs on a cold night overlooking the twinkling lights of the town, and the odd star peeking through, but then it was a very fast turnaround to don our yakutas and be at dinner for 19:00, where we'd pre-booked the traditional kaiseki multi-course dinner, including one vegetarian, as one photo shows. Our hostess explained the dishes, and the protocols. The local sake brewery also do craft beers, so we had one of those each, then wine, and the whole thing was just fantastic.
Even better was the traditional breakfast. Whilst we had some idea of what we might be getting for dinner, we had none for breakfast...and as the other picture shows, it was spectacular, and made the people's Western choice breakfast on the next table look very paltry and ordinary.
The rooms are of course traditional tatami mats with roll up mattresses and duvets and whilst they might be ever so slightly dated, it really didn't matter one iota, and certainly don't be put off by the gaudy colour of the hotel, which commands a great hillside location plus views.The staff at all points of contact were just great, and we were taken by the hotel's courtesy minibus for our 8:30-ish onward train journey to Kyoto.
We put our own trip together, and the Lonely Planet kind of makes it seem like a bit of a slog to get out here, but whilst some train travel time is of course required, the reward to effort ratio fully justifies it, and this hotel is a well priced and very comfortable and welcoming place from which to experience all of the above.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Traditional Japanese Experience including Tatami Rooms & Magical Ryokan Dinner & Breakfast. A limited number of rooms have Westerner Orientated Beds. You'll feel the pride of Yudanaka's Mineral Springs in our 100% Natural Overflowing-Non-recycled HotSprings. Our staff will show a Ryokan tradition in an international atmosphere. Book the private 9th floor rooftop HotSpring Tub for your Floating Sake dream. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Ryokan Biyunoyado Hotel Yamanouchi-Machi
- Ryokan Biyunoyado Japan/Nagano Prefecture - Yamanouchi-Machi