Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Saigakukan: One of Yufuin’s Best Onsen Ryokan

If you have come to Yufuin for its onsen and the spectacular scenic view, then Yufunogo Saigakukan (柚富の郷 彩岳館) is the onsen ryokan that you don’t want to miss! Almost all accommodations at Yufuin have onsen for their customers to enjoy. But there are only so many spots in the area that come with the backdrop of Mt. Yufu. And, the pricing of the ryokan (traditional hotel) is quite reasonable compared to other ryokans in the area (^_-)-☆.

As we chose to visit Yufuin for its resort-style atmosphere, we decided to go a bit more luxurious and spend more than our usual accommodation budget during our visit to this beautiful town in 2017.

The reason why Yufunogo Saigakukan was chosen is that we liked the attention staff gave us during our communication with the hotel to confirm our dietary requirements. The number of details that they confirmed with us showed us that they really care about the needs of vegetarians and vegans!

An Unusual But Pleasant Check-In Experience at Saigakukan

As soon as we stepped inside, we were nicely surprised by the quirky interior that skillfully combines Western art with the simplicity of Japanese architecture!

Ⓒ Saigakukan

After the renovation was completed in 2022, Saigakukan’s entrance resembles a luxurious Western-style hotel!

In addition, on one side of the dining area, there is a spectacular backdrop of Mt. Yufu that left us begging the hotel staff for photos (´▽`*).

Unlike most hotels, the check-in process wasn’t completed at the reception counter. It was done while we enjoyed our complimentary matcha green tea and Japanese sweets in the dining area (*’▽’).

As guests arrived at different times in the afternoon, we were enjoying the hospitality of five staff who patiently explained things we needed to be aware of during our stay. The staff also responded kindly to our endless requests for more photos before they guided us to our room!

There are several types of rooms that you can choose from. Each with different views, characteristics, and facilities, but all are quite spacious.

How Your Room Might Look Like When You Stay at Saigakukan

There are quite a few types of rooms at Saigakukan that don’t come with a bathroom except for a toilet. Our room is one of them. But there are plenty of private bath facilities you can book to enjoy (as well as the public bath).

Many people who come to stay plan to take a bath in all the bathing facilities during the stay. And whether it is indoor or outdoor, public or private, it will feel like you are having a bath in the deep mountainside when all their bathing facilities overlook Mt. Yufu!

You can find out more about different guest rooms at Saigakukan HERE.

If you are staying in one of the Japanese-style guestrooms, the staff will lay out your futon bed while you enjoy a delicious dinner.

We were really happy to see the futon beds on the tatami mats when we returned from dinner. Exactly the same experience as what we have learned from Japanese dramas and anime (≧▽≦).

The beds were quite comfy. Not as hard as one may imagine. However, that is just our opinion. If you are used to a soft mattress, you may find it not as soft as you would like… (but isn’t a futon bed the most critical part of a ryokan experience??).

Saigakukan’s Onsen Facilities

The photo below is one of the private onsen baths at Saigakukan. In the evening, while you won’t be able to see the glory of Mt. Yufu clearly, the lighting around the bathtub creates a mysterious yet romantic kind of atmosphere.

Private Bathing Facilities

There are currently a total of 5 private baths that Saigakukan’s guests can enjoy (3 bigger ones suitable for families and 2 smaller ones like the one in the photo). All of the private baths are equipped with a shower area where you will need to make yourself clean before you dive into the onsen tub.

If you stay overnight at Saigakukan, you can check if the private baths are vacant on your room’s TV screen.

But note if the ryokan has many guests during your visit, one room can only reserve for one 60-minute private bathing session upon check-in.

Tip: If you are told to make a reservation for Saigakukan’s private baths when you check in, you can check with the reception for any unreserved timeslots after all guests are checked in.

Public Bathing Facilities

If you are comfortable bathing with strangers, you can enjoy the spacious public bath at Saigakukan. Both indoor and outdoor public baths are the sizes of a swimming pool! If other people aren’t around, you can even float around a bit in the onsen. But be really careful, though. It is not a swimming pool, after all (´▽`*).

Ⓒ Saigakukan

Even if you accidentally drink some onsen water, that is fine too! The onsen water at Saigakukan has been determined to be safe for drinking (=゚ω゚)ノ. They even have an onsen fountain built for its guests to drink!

You can check out what all onsen facilities at Saigakkan look like HERE on their official English website.

The Resting Area

Just outside the private and public baths, there is this resting area for people to enjoy the afterglow of their onsen experience.

There is a vending machine selling cold milk for the truly traditional Japanese experience (drinking cold milk is what most Japanese do after an onsen session). Or if you just want to cool down your body after a warm bath.

Of course, the area isn’t limited to people who have just finished bathing. You are more than welcome to visit the area to appreciate the Japanese garden in front of it and the irori (囲炉裏), which is a traditional Japanese sunken hearth. It is also a great space to just chill out with your family and/or friends (^^)/.

Yukata at Saigakukan

Yukata (casual Kimono) is provided to all Saigakukan’s guests staying overnight. We highly recommend giving it a go, as your experience at an onsen ryokan wouldn’t be complete without it!

If you have never worn one, HERE is a link you can refer to (‘ω’)ノ.

Our Vegen Kaiseki Ryōri at Saigakukan

Whilst the plan we chose originally contained two non-vegan meals, Saigakukan was able to replace the entire kaiseki ryōri menu with plant-based dishes. The number of dishes that we got was still the same as the original plan, which is so generous (=゚ω゚)ノ.

As the space in the dining area is limited, you will be given a few time slots to choose from when you check in for dinner. We went for the second time slot as we thought there should be fewer people using the onsen facilities during the early evening – which was the case.

Though we forgot that one of the dishes other guests would be having was barbeque. Although it was only one dish, we still smelt like barbequed meat afterwards… But that is okay. The great thing about staying at an onsen hotel is that whenever you feel like it, it is there for you to indulge in (*’▽’).

The breakfast at Saigakukan is also a traditional Japanese-style breakfast. We compared it with the food that other people were having and happily concluded that we loved the dishes in front of us more!

How to Get to Saigakukan

Saigakukan is a 5-minute away by car from JR Yufuin Station (you can reach JR Yufuin Station by the sightseeing train Yufuin no Mori, or by bus).

If you are like us and don’t want to catch a taxi, quickly call the hotel when you get to JR Yufuin Station. The hotel’s van will be there to pick you up in 5 to 10 minutes. Staff at the hotel do speak English, so you shouldn’t be experiencing any communication problems.

A public payphone is located just outside of the ticket gate from memory. If you can’t find it, you can always check with the staff at the station.

You will be able to recognize which car was sent by Saigakukan as the hotel name, “彩岳館” is printed on the side of the car. You can check out what it might look like HERE on their official website.

Ⓒ Saigakukan

When you check in, you will be asked when you want to check out the next morning. This is for them to arrange to fetch you back to JR Yufuin Station.

Important: Their fetching service is only available between 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm from the station to the hotel and between 8:30 am to 11 am to take you back to the station.

Explore the Most Unique Onsen Town – Yufuin

Click the photo to find out where to visit in Yufuin!

Enjoying the hospitality at Saigakukan is great. But what to do once you check out?

After the hotel staff take you back to JR Yufuin Station, HERE is a guide for you to stroll around this relaxing and beautiful town (=゚ω゚)ノ

Coin Lockers and Baggage Keeping Services at Yufuin

You will be able to find coin lockers in JR Yufuin Station, or the Yufuin Tourist Information Center located just opposite the station can temporarily keep your bags for you.

  • At Yufuin Station, there are 6 small lockers (400 yen), 28 middle lockers (600 yen), 4 large lockers (700 yen), and 22 extra-large lockers (900 yen).
  • The Tourist Information Center is able to keep your luggage while you explore Yufuin from 500 yen per piece, depending on the size of your bag. Note the center is operating between 9 am and 5:30 pm. So if you plan to check in or retrieve your belongings outside their business hours, using the coin lockers in the Station is probably a better idea.


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