I recently had a chance to stay a night at Asaba Ryokan in Izu Japan, and experience a night of extreme luxury.
My wife and I got lucky and won a prize that took us to Izu via the Green Car (like 1st class) on the Shinkansen, and put us up for the night. Just to put this into perspective, Chirac stayed at this same Ryokan! This ryokan is more than 300 years old, and considered one of the best in the area. In addition, I’ve been in Japan for almost 5 years now, and I think that was the first time I have ever ridden the Green Car. In the picture above the inn itself is on the right. The building on the left is also owned by the inn, but is only used for traditional plays (Noh) on special occasions. This picture was taken from the inns cafe. The cafe has no wall, it opens right out to the lake. I’m no architect, but the effect was incredible.
This is actually part of the hallway to our room. It’s off to the left in this picture.
This is the private bath inside of the inn. First come first served. The bath is filled with 100% natural hot spring water.
This is the open-air spa（露天風呂）. The water on the inside of the rocks closest in the picture is hot spring water. The outer rim is a regular lake. I talked to an old naked guy here in the morning. He was nice.
We also had a bath in our room filled with hot spring water as well. There were also two other indoor baths on the premises for men and women respectively.
In one day, we took four baths. Then took two the next morning… Allow me to speak for everyone and say that the only reason anyone really stays in these places is to enjoy the baths and the food. Though not pictured here, the inside of the rooms are very minimalist. Tatami, a large wooden table for eating, large windows, and a small TV stuffed into the corner. While you are in the hot springs taking your bath after dinner, the hotel staff will come into the room and take your futon out of the closet and spread it out for you. So even the futon are completely out of sight during the day. The rooms are almost completely bare. It’s very relaxing.
Breakfast time! In a few days I will post the 2-hour dinner we had in this place. Even though each dish was small, there were so many different things… I could hardly finish.
The town that Asaba Onsen is in is called Shuzenji. There is a temple (called Shuzenji…), hot springs, a short hiking trail, and a lot of shops and Japanese tourists. The town does feel extremely touristy, but it’s not too over the top to be annoying.
A few years ago (okay so 3 years ago now… I’ve been here too long) I went to another Onsen town in Kansai and posted about it, check it out to expand your onsen town knowledge. As in the previous post, there are also a bunch of ashiyu places in this town as well. In the picture above, that little brown hut in the middle of the river is an ashiyu place. We met some young Osaka people there. They were funny.
If you want information on other Japanese Inns to visit, just Google “Japanese Ryokan”, or check out these books as well. Ryokan are pretty expensive, but if you’re coming through Japan I would recommend trying one for at least one night!