Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Yamakikan: The Most Incredible Ryokan in Kawarayu Onsen

One thing that many international tourists would love to experience in Japan is staying at a traditional ryokan. When you visit Kawarayu Onsen, Yamakikan (山木館), established in 1661, is the best ryokan in town for a taste of the traditional Japanese ambiance. On top of the wooden structure from a few centuries ago, Yamakikan is decorated with various old posters and town maps, giving you a clearer idea of how the onsen town used to look. In addition, Yamakikan has a private onsen tub and a library renovated from traditional storage! And while we keep using the word traditional, the ryokan is equipped with modern technology to ensure a comfortable stay.

Staying at Yamakikan

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Yamakikan’s spacious ground houses 8 luxurious traditional rooms.

If you know Japanese and have a lot of gardening knowledge, you will notice that Yamakikan’s guestrooms are named after trees. From the window, you can see the tree which the room was named after!

While the Yamba Dam‘s construction meant Yamakikan had to be relocated, it was an opportunity for the ryokan. Due to the dam’s construction, many old houses were scheduled to be demolished. Using these houses’ building materials, Yamakikan was reborn into an inn, offering an exceptional ryokan experience.

If you prefer to have a hot spring tub attached, reserve the guestroom called Soyogo (冬青). While Kakuremino (隠蓑) also has a private tub, it isn’t onsen coming out of the tap.

Note that the bedding of the Japanese-style rooms is the Japanese-style futon bed. To ensure your privacy, Yamakikan kindly asks its guests to make your bed. While some may prefer to have their bed made while they are out for dinner, treat it as a cultural experience!

Dining at Yamakikan

Although you might want your meals to be served in the guestroom, Yamakikan provides something better. An old house of a sericulture farmer relocated from Kawarayu’s old site was renovated into the ryokan’s dining area. The house was partitioned, giving each group of guests a private dining room with a garden view. The rooms have a traditional setting, and what makes most of us foreigners excited is the hearth in the middle of the low dining table!

Tip: Let Yamakikan know in advance if you are on a vegan/vegetarian diet so they can prepare your food separately.

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However, the best thing about Yamakikan’s dinner is the Kamado Ryōri (かまど料理).

In the Edo period, wood-burning stoves (Kamado) were used for cooking. To allow its guests to experience this part of the culture, Yamakikan installed a modern version of the cooking stoves. The seasoned ingredients and rice are placed in a wooden pot and then heated with electricity by the guests. So not only can you taste the freshly harvested ingredients, but the dinner is also a cultural experience!

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Furthermore, feel free to grab drinks from the drink bar. No extra charges will be incurred. Whether it is locally brewed sake, Asahi beer or soft drinks, they can all be found at the drink bar!

Yamakikan’s Hot Spring Facility

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Yamakikan has three onsen areas, a public bath for each gender and a private bath. All of them have a small, gorgeous garden attached and offer a stunning view of the surrounding mountains. These newly constructed facilities are elegantly designed and offer the top bathing experience. The public baths have two hot spring pools, indoor and outdoor. The private bath is semi-open air, but if you open the ground-to-ceiling window, it becomes almost an outdoor bath!

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As mentioned, the ryokan guests can enjoy the private bath for free. As there are other guests staying in Yamakikan, please limit a single use to 60 minutes. You are always welcome to come back during your stay when the private bath is vacated.

  • The hot spring facilities are open from 3 pm to 9:30 am.

Other Facilities at Yamakikan

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Whether you like reading or not, remember to stop by the ryokan’s study (書斎) inside a traditional storage relocated from Kawarayu Onsen’s old site. Inside the Japanese-style storage, it is another world. The Western-style library has a bookshelf covering a side of the wall, just like a smaller version of the one in Harry Potter!

The library is quiet, enabling you to focus on the book in your hand. It is also a great place for remote working if there is something urgent you need to attend to.

How to Get to Yamakikan

  • Yamakikan is around a 20-minute walk from JR Kawarayu-Onsen Station.

Tip: Utilize Yamakikan’s free pick-up and drop-off service. If you let the ryokan know your intention in advance, they can pick you up between 3 pm and 6 pm and drop you off around 10 am!

Discover Other Attractions in Kawarayu Onsen

Click the photo for more tourist spots in Kawarayu Onsen!

Now you have the accommodation sorted, it is time to explore the attractions in Kawarayu Onsen. The onsen town tucked in Gunma Prefecture‘s beautiful mountain is a great destination to enjoy a range of outdoor activities besides the hot spring. In addition to hiking, there is even a rail bicycle track that allows you to cycle on the abandoned rail line!

For more information, refer to our article on Kawarayu Onsen!