One of the quintessentially Japanese experiences is staying in a Ryokan, a traditional inn. They are typically found in less urban settings which meant I had not had the opportunity to experience one on previous visits but this trip included a hike along the Nakasendo trail and what better way to finish than with a stay in one of the traditional inns at Tsumago, relaxing after the day of walking in the traditional style. And so we checked in to the Fujito Inn, mostly not knowing what to expect but with high hopes. They were exceeded in just about every way.
The inn grounds include well manicured gardens in front of the building and in a center courtyard. And a traditional architecture including the large common room, shared bath areas and sliding doors (no hinges!) everywhere.
The rooms are, as expected, traditional. That means tatami mats on the floor and futons rolled out in the evening for sleeping. This was not our first night on the mats and it is certainly not my favorite sleeping arrangement, but it was comfy enough and fit well with the overall experience.
After a short stint exploring the town of Tsumago we slipped in to our yukata and had a truly spectacular experience: Dinner.
I’m rarely a fan of all-inclusive bookings; this is one of the exceptions which proves the rule. Everything was locally sourced and cooked to order that day by the wife half of the couple which owns the inn. It was served by the husband who spent plenty of time with us throughout the process, explaining what we were eating and why it was special.
The opening round of snack bites was a mix of delicious flavors and the salmon/char/trout was delicious.
But it was the steak which simply could not be beat. He didn’t use the term “kobe” and we were a couple prefectures away, but the descriptions offered of the cattle breeding & raising process suggest that it was very, very close to the same thing. So did the taste. Added bonus in it having been cooked at the table for us. (Another post I found about the Fujito suggests it is Shinsyu beef steak, but I don’t really know what that means.)
Veggies & sides, too. They were also delicious, but the meat was still the highlight.
Two desserts – one the traditional Gohei Mochi and the other a collection of green tea flavors – rounded out the meal.
I don’t know that the meals at other Ryokans can stand up to the bar which Fujito set for me. I’m not really sure many other meals could regardless of location. It really was that spectacular. And a perfect introduction to the Ryokan way of life.
More posts from the Japan 2015 Vacation
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Glad you enjoyed the stay at the Ryokan. It is truly the quintessential Japan experience for us when we travel there. Reading about all the chain hotels on the other sites almost makes me feel sorry that people are missing out on things like this in search of upgrades and stay credits.
We once stayed at a Ryokan in Mie prefecture on the coast of the Pacific. It was located right on a harbor where we could see the fishing boats docked. I know our meal was sourced right from those boats every day. It was a very seafood centric menu but now I can say I have tried raw lobster sashimi.
Thanks. This is a very timely post for me as I have built in a 26-hour stopover in Nagoya with the sole purpose of visiting the Kiso Valley. I have an upcoming booking at Fujioto, and was also planning to walk the Nakasendo Highway between Tsumago and Magome.
I will be traveling with two kids. My kids are experienced hikers, but they are still just kids. Was originally thinking I would walk half of the road between Tsumago and Magome since I read that some parts aren’t very scenic (and we also don’t have a lot of time).
On which side of the bucket-list/tourist-trap spectrum would you rate the walk? What was your favorite part of the Nakasendo visit?
I would definitely walk the trail (not the highway) if you walk it at all. We did the walk in ~3-3.5 hours, including a couple brief (5-15 minute) rests along the way and a detour to the falls. The initial climb out of Magome is somewhat steep uphill but that tapers after an hour or so and the rest is even to downhill. We started early, on a 7:30a train out of Nagoya IIRC, and were in Tsumago for a late lunch. Doing it again I probably would have brought a better snack along for while hiking (especially with kids) as the timing meant we were VERY hungry by the time we got to the end, but it was not an all-day event by any stretch. There are places to stop along the way but no concessions to speak of. Also, cash-only once you leave Nagoya. As in ZERO credit card acceptance.
And we were on the morning bus/train back out of town making it a ~28 hour round trip out of Nagoya. I think there may have been one earlier bus/train out but it was too early to enjoy breakfast at Fujito.
Teachable moment: the “exception that proves the rule” doesn’t mean “Usually the rule is correct, but sometimes there’s an exception.” It means that if there’s a sign that tells you NO PARKING 12-2pm, you know that you are in fact allowed to park from 2:10pm to 11:59am. The exception, that there is no parking for two hours, has proven the rule
I did a walk from Magome to Tsumago. It was very nice, not difficult (it’s a bit longish but absolutely not strenuous) but it was not a “must see”. Though it is a nice escape from Magome/Tsumago day crowds. You should not be disappointed with the walk but a night at Tsumago is a better experience than the walk.
I also stayed in Fujioto and it is a marvellous ryokan. I stayed in a few ryokans in other parts of Japan and, though nice compare to network hotels, they were way below Fujioto.
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