Ryokan Tanabe: A Sense of Home on the Road

Visited November 2018

  • Paid booking: $182 per night, inclusive of dinner/breakfast for 2
  • Booking method: JAPANiCAN
  • Dinner/Breakfast: Excellent, beautiful presentation
  • Location: Excellent, easy walk to everything
  • Service: Excellent, warm and genuine
  • Extras: Complimentary use of onsen and coffee in lounge area
  • Overall experience: 10/10
  • I’d choose this place in a heartbeat. It’s not a place for those who want a lot of amenities or high-touch service; it’s for people that want to experience a comfortable environment and feel valued without a lot of fuss.
Ryokan Tanabe: Traditional Lounge
Traditional lounging area

We’ve stayed at a lot of hotels and guesthouses and no other place has left me feeling so welcomed and at peace. It was our first time and only a 1-night stay. Still each and every person there made it feel like we had visited many times over and they were happy to have us back. This incredible hospitality was observed in their interaction with other guests as they were arriving, checking out or just going out for the day. They have created a truly special space.

Ryokan Tanabe: Lounge
The cozy lounge

The Ryokan is not high end; it is “just right.” Right near the action of Takayama (okay, this city is not a party spot). Right in the care in which each action occurs. Right with the comfort and level of amenities provided.

Just a short walk from the Takayama JR station, the ryokan is surrounded by shops, restaurants, river and historical sites. Granted that Takayama is not a sprawling city, to be within footsteps of activity is a big benefit. I was a bit worried that it might be too loud as our room also faced a main street, but as night falls, noise levels dropped. This is probably due to most people retiring to their hotels or moving on to Okuhida (deeper into the mountains where the majority of outdoor onsens are).

We had selected the kaiseki dinner and breakfast plan; we were delighted to have done so. To be frank, we probably couldn’t do more than one night as there was so much (delicious and aesthetically pleasing) food for both meals i.e. we also wanted to have an appetite to try the outside food. As with most ryokans, meals are served in your room; the hosts set up and adjust the space to correspond to lounging, meals and sleeping.

After meandering through the streets for a few hours, we were excited to head back for dinner. We did not know what to expect and figured (mistakenly) that we’d come back out for a late evening snack. Shortly after the requested time, our dinner host knocked and asked if she may serve dinner. And serve, she did! She cleaned the table and laid out a few dishes and I was thinking that was it. Then she asked us to wait and quickly came back with more. Another round of wait and more food arriving and she explained to us what everything was as well as how to eat certain items. It was a bewildering array of yumminess; we did not make it out for a late night snack.

Ryokan Tanabe: Want to Eat Now
Can I eat now?!

Shortly after dinner, we went to use their onsen. There was a small rectangular wood tub inside and 2 one-person tubs in the outdoor area. Again, it was not a luxurious space, but it felt right. One note for tall folks, the onsen serves a practical purpose beyond the relaxation. The in-room shower and tub would likely be tight on space for many people so you can just shower in the onsen area (as is customary in Japan before entering the onsen). Of course, if you don’t like being naked around other people, you’ll want to keep that in mind. Sorry, no photos as a respect of privacy.

Ryokan Tanabe: Sleeping Time
Room converted for sleeping

Soaking really closed the night on a relaxing note. Coming back to the room, we sank into the futons. In the morning, we repeated our visit to the onsen and then our breakfast host served our meal. Though not as extensive as the dinner, it was still a beautiful experience.

When we checked out, we asked if we could leave our bags for a few hours and the owner joked, “A few hours okay. Tonight okay. Tomorrow okay.” Then she gave an endearing chuckle. She also gave us each a pair of chopsticks. Even if you find chopsticks to be a cliche souvenir, how touching and thoughtful to receive a parting gift. We were also welcomed to to use their umbrellas and have coffee even though we were already checked-out. Such an amazing place.

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