11 Jun Staying in a Takayama ryokan with a toddler
Are you wondering about staying in a ryokan with a toddler? We felt a little unsure about it too, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience.
Disclaimer: links in this post are affiliate. Purchasing through them will earn us a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support.
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. This would be our accommodation in Takayama for the next two nights.
Entering the building bought us into the area for removing shoes. The ryokan had slippers lined up for wearing inside, we each put on a pair. Reception had one staff member that spoke English. He checked us in and explained what would happen with dinner, asking if we would like drinks. We ordered a beer each. An older lady then came around to lead us to our room and insisted on carrying our bags up the stairs.
Our ryokan room
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.
Our host lady showed us around the room, apologising 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. She made a jug of green tea for us to enjoy with some biscuits and left the room.
Inside the ryokan room
The room was looking a little tired with worn furniture and doors. It was clean and despite the ashtrays 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. The toilet (with heated seat) was to the right and a large wet room was on the left. 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. The ryokan supplied all the amenities needed.
Around the ryokan
You enter the ryokan into 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. Two large Maneki Neko (beckoning cat) sat in the entrance. This is to bring good luck. Opposite the cats was an opening that led to the reception desk. Past that was 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. The dining room where we ate breakfast was next to the lobby.
Set on top of a steep hill, the ryokan 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. We were able to book it with our stay and have it served in our room.
Our host lady came and served the 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. This included 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 really put me off for the night as I struggled to chew it enough to swallow. There was also a pastry parcel, pickles and one 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.
The third course and the end of our dinner was a dessert of lychees and melon with ice-cream.
Our thoughts on the Kaiseki course dinner
We were told to call reception when finished so that 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 unfinished food. Although, I’ve since read it’s best to leave some as eating everything can be seen as not being served enough.
We were glad to have booked 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 with other food and he didn’t have to sit still and wait for us to finish our multi-course dinner.
After dinner was 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 doonas were soft and warm.
The ryokan breakfast
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 from my tray. The first-morning breakfast consisted of rice, miso soup, cooked salmon, tofu and pickled vegetables. We enjoyed it all, although pickled vegetables are 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. Other people might really enjoy what we had. I think these foods require some acquired taste. The miso soup was a little different the second morning, but each one was delicious!
Staying in a Takayama ryokan with a toddler
While looking for a ryokan stay in Japan, we deliberately avoided the more expensive ones. A lot of people go to luxury ryokans for honeymoons and relaxing getaways. Our budget wouldn’t have covered it anyway but, we didn’t think they would be a good place for a toddler. Hidatakayama Futarishizuka Hakuun proved to be the right choice for staying in a Takayama ryokan with a toddler.
The room gave our toddler plenty of space to play. The low table and seats on the floor meant he could easily sit with us. Later the table was moved aside and futon bedding set up. This arrangement was perfect for our bed sharing toddler. I was able to get a good nights rest, without any worry of him falling out. We were able to experience a traditional dinner in our room, allowing our toddler to try foods and providing him with alternatives. Knowing it wouldn’t matter if he got bored and wandered off meant we were able to relax. At breakfast, the staff gave him his own little seat to sit on.
What made this ryokan most child-friendly were the staff. They were friendly to all of us, with one lady being really lovely to our toddler. Although she spoke little English she would always smile, wave and say hello to him. When he was a bit cranky one morning at breakfast, she played peekaboo with him.
Overall thoughts on our Takayama ryokan stay
We really enjoyed our stay at Hidatakayama Futarishizuka Hakuun. Takayama has luxury ryokans but this one fit our budget, was child-friendly, in a great location and had a fabulous view. It was a wonderful experience that gave us a more traditional feel of Japan.