Mount Misen was cloaked in white as our ferry approached the pier at Miyajima Island. We could see the bright red torii (a traditional Japanese gate at the entrance of a Shinto shrine), ever so faintly amidst the fog. After docking, we asked the nice gentleman at the visitor booth to make a call. Within 10 minutes, Watanabe-san appeared to greet us (with the most sincere bow ever!) and loaded our bags into his van. AS, my mum, and I were all giddy on the short ride through the ancient alleys of Miyajima. Not only was this her first time traveling with us, it was also our first time staying at a traditional Japanese inn- a ryokan.
We received a warm welcome from Watanabe-san‘s wife and snacked on momiji manju while we waited. These are maple leaf shaped cakes loaded with azuki paste; they’re also Hiroshima’s most popular souvenir!
After being shown to our rooms, we washed up and changed into yukata.
Watanabe-Inn is a short drive from the pier. Watanabe-san picked us up and dropped us off in his van (the signature white van in many Japanese anime series I grew up watching- so nostalgic) so we didn’t have to haul our luggage. The famous torii and Itsukushima Shrine are about 10 minutes away on foot, and the stairs to Daishō-in‘s main entrance is right outside the inn!
There are only 4 rooms at Watanabe-Inn (for maximum service!) and each comes with a Japanese cypress tub. These are Japanese style rooms with tatami mats, meaning you sleep on a super comfortable futon that’s laid out for you on the floor.
AS and I stayed in Momiji which was awesome, while my mom stayed in the peasant room (kidding, hers was dope too because it came with a loft!). We liked ours just a tad more because it came with an attached sitting area for tea that overlooks a beautiful garden and pond.
Remember that cypress tub I was talking about? Not only does it smell refreshing, it fills by itself and stops once it reaches a certain level. And it keeps the water at the temperature you set!
Food. The best part. This is the main reason why we wanted to stay at a ryokan– to experience Kaiseki-ryori, which is a traditional multi-course Japanese meal originally served at tea ceremonies.
These guys use only fresh seafood caught from the Seto Inland Sea and present every dish beautifully. Seriously, just leave it to the Japanese when it comes to immaculate culinary details with a homey touch. Needless to say, our taste buds were very happy and thanked us (and the chef) for the delicious meal.
The traditional Japanese breakfast was exactly what we expected. Rice, miso soup, some proteins, and pickled vegetables as side dishes. It was so yummy- I don’t normally eat rice (even though I’m Asian- weird, I know) but I finished the whole thing!
I think it goes without saying that the Japanese are one of, if not the most polite and well-mannered people in the world. Watanabe-san and his wife are perfect examples of what hospitality should be. They lent us umbrellas and rainboots, and did everything they could to ensure our stay was on point.
Have you ever stayed at a ryokan? Tell me about your experience below!
- If you’re looking for an authentic ryokan experience, pick somewhere that’s not in the big cities (i.e. Kyoto or Osaka). We were so glad we did this on Miyajima Island- the remoteness and serenity made our stay extra special. Our friend stayed at a ryokan in Arashiyama and he loved it.
- A night’s stay isn’t cheap, but it’s totally worth it! Rates range from $230-280CAD per night per person.
- Pick the Momiji room if you do end up choosing Watanabe-Inn.
- Stay longer! We regret spending only 1 night.
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