11 Jun Our stay in a Takayama ryokan
We got into Takayama and after driving down really narrow streets and up the hill, we parked the car outside of the ryokan. Hidatakayama Futarishizuka Hakuun would be our accommodation in Takayama for the next two nights. We’d packed what we needed into our two bags so we could leave the suitcases in the car. We entered the building, removed our shoes and put on the slippers that were lined out. Reception had one staff member that spoke English. He checked us in and explained what would happen with dinner and our bedding. He asked if we would like drinks with our meal and we both ordered a beer. An older lady came around to lead us to our room and insisted on carrying our bags up the stairs.
The first door with the lock opened into a little entrance way. We removed our slippers before opening the door to our tatami room. Tatami is a woven straw mat, traditionally used as flooring in Japan. You only step onto the tatami in bare feet or socks. We were shown around the room which was made up of the dining/sleeping area, a sitting area with a TV and the bathroom/toilet area. Our host lady apologised for not speaking much English. Despite not being able to really communicate verbally, we could tell she was a genuinely friendly person. Fletcher warmed to her immediately and throughout our stay she always smiled and talked to him. She made a a jug of green tea for us to enjoy with some biscuits and left the room.
The room was looking a little tired with worn furniture and doors. It was clean and despite the ash trays on the tables, it didn’t smell of cigarette smoke. In the above photo (the one with Fletcher dancing around, enjoying the extra space) Tim is putting on the toilet slippers, separate slippers worn only in the toilet room. The sliding door opened into an area with a basin and mirror. To the right was the toilet (with heated seat) and to the left was the room with the bath and shower.
The area was one large wet room. There was a deep cypress bath and opposite that was the shower, all the flooring was timber slats. The bathroom window looked out over Takayama. All amenities were supplied.
Around the ryokan
Upon walking through the door you enter the genkan, a japanese entrance way. This is usually a step lower than the rest of the building. There was shelving to one side to place your shoes after removing them. They had slippers lined up along the step, so you could easily slip into a pair. In the entrance were two large Maneki neko (beckoning cat), which are said to bring good luck. Opposite the cats was an opening that led to the reception desk. Past that were the open air baths, we didn’t use them so I can’t comment on what they were like. To the right of reception were stairs up to the guest rooms and the lobby area with a large window looking out to the outdoor area and view of Takayama. Off the lobby was a room filled with low tables where breakfast was served.
As the ryokan is set on top of a steep hill, it has a great view overlooking rooftops of Takayama and out to the hillside. This was one of the reasons I chose to book Futarishizuka Hakuun. We were able to walk down the hill and stroll around the town, seeing old Takayama, newer streets and visit a morning market during our stay.
Kaiseki course dinner
Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese, multi-course meal. Our host lady came and served our first course, which is shown in the photo below. We weren’t sure where to start. There was a little burner with a plate over the top in which we were to cook everything and then mix it all together with the sauce. On the plate was sliced hida beef, bean sprouts and some vegetables. The beef was deliciously tender.
Also on the first course tray was tofu in a sweet sauce, plates of sashimi including salmon, Tuna, scallops, squid and a whole prawn. I enjoyed all of it except for one that was really chewy. It was either the squid or the scallop. It really put me off for the night as I struggled to chew it enough to swallow. There was also a pastry parcel, pickles and the thing that really made my tummy turn was some sort of sea snail. I’m just not used to eating some of this food.
Our host lady came and cleared the first course and presented the next. I had to force myself to eat some as the last few things I had eaten made me queasy. I felt silly and tried to put it out of my mind so I could enjoy the rest of the dinner. There was rice, Fletcher ate most of mine, a cheesy baked vegetable dish and an egg custard. Dessert was some lychees and melon with ice-cream.
When we were finished we phoned reception to let them know, so that our dinner could be cleared and our bedding set up. I’d tried to eat as much as I could but I felt terrible and embarrassed when our host came to collect the tray of un-finished food. We were glad to have booked the dinner and get the experience to try a lot of foods. With a toddler, it was perfect being able to have our meal in our room. We were able to provide him other food and he didn’t have to sit still and wait for us to finish our multi-course dinner.
After finishing dinner and having it cleared. Our host lady, with the help of another woman came and set up our beds for the night. They moved the table aside and laid out the futon mattresses, covering them with sheets and then placing the sheet covered doona on top. It was quite comfortable, the doona’s were soft and warm. The only issue I had was that when laying on my side during the first night, my hip bone ached from digging into the floor. It didn’t bother me the second night though.
We entered the breakfast room and knelt at our table. They gave Fletcher a little chair to sit on and he munched away on his fruit and tried some things off my tray. The first morning breakfast consisted of rice, miso soup, cooked salmon, tofu and pickled vegetables. We enjoyed it all, although pickled vegetables is something we are not used to eating. The second morning was much the same but unfortunately a lot wasn’t to our taste. There were cold baked sardines, cold slimy mushrooms and the pickled vegetables were harder to eat. We felt terrible that we might insult the cooks and ate as much as we could. It was just flavours and textures we weren’t used to. Other people might really enjoy what we had. The miso soup was a little different the second morning, but each one was delicious!
We really enjoyed our stay at Futarishizuka Hakuun. I’m sure there are more luxury ryokans in Takayama but this one fit our budget, was in a great location and had a fabulous view. The staff were all friendly, with the one lady in particular paying extra attention to Fletcher. It was a great experience and gave us a more traditional feel of Japan.