Experience traditional luxury in a ryokan that’s as welcoming as it was 70 years ago
City | History & culture
Sometimes known as ‘Little Kyoto’, Takayama flourished under shogun rule meaning its historic Old Town with its merchant stores and ebony wood houses is one of the country’s most ornate and best preserved. Unsurprisingly, the city is known for its carpenters. Explore it all by rickshaw or make the four-minute walk from Tanabe to the 16th century Hidakokubun-ji Temple. It’s also just around the corner from the city’s main train station. Head out into the surrounding mountains and their pretty forests on walking trails that bring you past a reconstructed Folk Village and several morning markets. Its autumn and spring festivals are famous nationwide for their colourful floats.
On arrival, friendly and impeccably welcoming staff greet you in the hotel’s lounge where you’ll sip coffee and receive your yukata kimono before being escorted to your room. Don’t forget to remove your shoes. Here, sliding doors open onto tatami rice straw mats as Kanji characters adorn the walls and low rise furniture rounds off what are faultlessly authentic rooms. Rice paper blinds ensure that blonde wood glows in soft lighting. Upgrade for wooden baths that look onto private, miniature Japanese gardens or for larger, characterful rooms suitable for groups.
In accordance with true Japanese hospitality, breakfasts and dinners are served in your room by attentive hosts. Of course, local Hida steak – a much celebrated form of wagyu beef – is served in all its delicately marbled glory while seafood is equally well represented in snow crabs and fresh fish from nearby rivers. Expect side dishes of miso soup and boiled bamboo shoots. Breakfast menus are similarly expansive with tasting courses that are washed down with fresh tomato juice.
A stay at Tanabe is crowned by a visit to its hot spring baths. As communal affairs, access to either the cypress bath or the rock bath rotates each day by gender. However, each is the perfect end to a day spent sightseeing. Elsewhere, you can relax in the cute lounge or by the fire of the appropriately named ‘Room with a Hearth’. Of course, you’ll have to call into the banquet hall, which recalls a time when ryokans were used as halfway houses by itinerant samurai.
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