2017 Apr 5 – 2017 Apr 6
- Room: Yama-no-iori
- Price: USD 298 per night (one person, dinner and breakfast included)
- Private bath for 45 minutes was additional JPY 3000 (~ USD 27)
- They provide free shuttle bus to/from Kameoka train station (both JR and torokko). You need to let them know in advance.
- At the time of booking, the same room went for USD 500 if booked for two people.
- Link: Tripadvisor, Official website
The definition of the word “ryokan” is a type of traditional Japanese inn. I think it’s closer to hotel given that most of these are expensive and rather fancy. They usually have very traditional-looking rooms, onsen (hot spring), and serve traditional (and fancy) dinner and breakfast.
Sumiya Kiho-an was located in Kameoka, which was 20-minute train ride away from Kyoto. The ryokan was far from the train station and I reserved a shuttle bus which picked me up at Kameoka JR station. The bus ride was 17 minutes.
The building was located right beside a big road, so it didn’t have a secluded feel. The building was somewhat traditional looking.
As soon as I stepped off from the bus I was personally greeted by one of the staffs who turned out to be Korean! I read that many of the staffs do not speak fluent English so I was fortunate to have someone who spoke the same language as myself fluently. I also saw some staffs speaking Mandarin.
Everyone from the shuttle bus were seated in the lobby area for check-in. I sat down and the staff came to me with forms to fill out.
I was given tea and snacks while I waited. The tea tasted roasted and umami. The black bean dessert was surprisingly good! The texture was chewy like gummy and they were sweet.
I signed up for dinner at 6 PM and private onsen at 9 PM. The private onsen costed JPY 3000 (~ USD 27) but I wanted to try it out, so I pulled the trigger.
After the check-in process I was walked to my room, which was on the 4th floor.
IT WAS GREAT! To be honest my expectation was not that high because my room was the cheapest room in the ryokan. I couldn’t quite tell from the pictures I saw beforehand but I thought the room would be much smaller.
The room was facing the mountain. While the view wasn’t spectacular it was mostly quiet (besides the guests in the next room who left their window open). The furnitures felt pretty new and while it didn’t feel fancy it still felt luxurious. I won’t elaborate too much. I think the pictures speak for themselves.
I was so excited I even took a video.
They also provided yukata (traditional clothing) and geta (traditional slippers), so I changed into those right away.
After dinner the table was moved to the side and my bed was set up. I wasn’t used to sleeping on the floor but the pad felt almost like a mattress and I had no problem sleeping.
Onsen (Hot Spring)
The staff had told me that most guests visit the onsen 3 times during a one-night stay: once before the dinner, once after the dinner, and once the next morning. So I decided to head to onsen before my scheduled dinner.
The onsen area was in a different building from the main building so I had to walk outside, but not too far. There were three outdoor baths and one indoor bath. The amenities were much better than the ones from Kinosaki public baths and they even had scrub salt! It also felt much more quiet and peaceful. When I went around 4:30 PM before dinner there were only 2 people besides me.
I took some pictures the next morning at 6:30 AM because there was nobody else in the onsen that morning.
I went to the reception area and I was given a small basket with a key to the onsen, flashlight, and a map. It was about 5-minute walk through a partially lit passage.
There was a change room area near the onsen.
The onsen itself was much larger than I had imagined. There were two baths and two sit-down shower areas. It did feel very mystical and I felt so alone it was weird. Walking around alone, outside, naked, at night, far away from other buildings.
I enjoyed every minute of it. I really liked the privacy after 30-bed dorm room stay. Even at this ryokan the room next to me sang happy birthday with open window.
The service was great, especially the Korean staff, and I really enjoyed the stay overall. I’ll write about the food in a separate blog post but in short, the food wasn’t that mind-blowing but it was still good and very interesting. The room and the onsen were amazing and I would love to go back. I think staying here in winter would be interesting.
Usually when I travel alone I stay at hostels because hotels seem too expensive, especially when the price is the same regardless of whether there is one person staying or two people staying. But ryokans usually charge by the number of people staying, so it was great value for the money for a solo traveller.
The single night here costed almost as much as all my other nights (10 nights) combined, but to me it was worth the money. I actually wished I had one more night here. I can see myself coming here for multiple nights to just relax if I could afford it.