Beniya Ryokan and Onsen in Awara

Well-established, authentic hospitality and elegance

By Shozo Fujii    - 6 min read

The eagerly waited for cherry blossoms reach into the April sky a moderate height. As guests approach the entrance they are silently greeted by a thick, dignified tree. After a great fire in the area in 1956, this 200 year old tree at the time was replanted here from a neighboring area as a sign of hope and recovery. Step inside the genkan where you take off your shoes as rays of sunlight stream in alongside you, creating a pleasing feeling. Welcome to Beniya (べにや). 

Beniya is a long running ryokan established with the opening of Awara Onsen (Awara Hot Spring). Its founder, Okumura Togoro, used to run a wholesale business through small cargo ship with the neighboring town of Mikuni along the Sea of Japan. The signature product sold in the business were beniko, or cosmetics. In honor of this, the ryokan is called Beniya (ya means shop or house).

With the coming of the Meiji Restoration, Japan was changing rapidly. Western technology encouraged a focus on land transportation through rail, thus the water shipping industry began to decline. Togoro would also have felt the effects of the changing times. He boldly decided to change his business in 1882. One year later Beniya was completed with the establishment of Awara Onsen.In the shadow of the prosperity of the more profitable red light district, first rate chefs from Mikuni took a chance to start a business here. 

Awara Onsen is in the middle of the vast Sakai Plains. Originally, there was no scenery or historic locations at this spot in Echizen. Instead, the spacious farmlands lead it to be called the breadbasket of Fukui.

Therefore, for the viewing pleasure of guests, a garden expert from Kyoto was hired to give the place some much needed greenery. Gaze out from the Japanese style rooms. Echoing from somewhere in this hidden garden, the beautiful, subdued singing of kibitaki and oruri birds (flycatcher species) create a calm and serene setting. Listen closely and you may hear the occasional rustle of leaves blown by a gentle breeze. 

For the visitor trying to escape the busy urban landscape, here you will find more than enough luxury. Relax and heave a sigh of relief upon arrival as you are in good hands.

Sampling wonderful Fukui Awara cuisine is beyond compare. Besides the Sakai Plains, fresh vegetables are picked from Onokatsuyama and Okuetsu. Abundant seafood is caught from the Sea of Japan and brought ashore. 

In addition, Fukui water is rain runoff from the Okuetsu mountains that soaks into the ground. After many years, finally, the "hundred year water" emerges from a spring. The soft mineral water is ideal for cooking. This is important because it is said one of the best forms of hospitality Awara offers its guests is its unparalleled cuisine. 

There are 24 Japanese style rooms. Since Beniya was established, it has been famous for its small size. The result is professional service that offers every guest exactly what they are looking for. Each and every Japanese style room is refined and beautiful. Japanese imperial family members Prince Akishino, your highness Takamatsu with Princess Takamatsu designated Beniya as one of their favorite overnight accommodations. After visiting I understand why. Having a small and manageable number of rooms allows staff to focus on the needs of every single guest. 

On a side note, there is a phrase to describe this level of service. ''Tsurutsuru Kotoba'' means words that are excessively used in a positive meaning but which creates a sensation of wearing away.Does this phrase not exist alongside words of kizuna (connection) and omotenashi (hospitality)? These convenient words if overused will begin to lose their meaning. However, when I heard the these same words spoken by the proprietress of the ryokan, I felt the passion behind her voice. In fact, the same exquisite service and professional communication from all the staff left a lasting impression. They have an indepth knowledge of the Fukui and Awara area, food, and hotel hospitality. Speaking of my own travel experiences, nothing else before or since has come close to their guest first mentality. 

Awara Onsen is a well known hot spring across Japan. There are a number of hot springs in the area to melt away your stress after a long journey, but if you select Awara Onsen, you must pair it with a stay at Beniya for the true hospitality experience. 

Room Attendants will cater to your every need. There are 10 staff, all women and all with their own personality, waiting on your every need. The hotel carefully listens to the needs of each guest and assigns the most appropriate room attendant to them. 

The intimate service often harmonizes into friendly relations between staff and guests. Combine this with the excellent omotenashi and it isn't surprising to learn that many guests are repeaters, staying two or three times. Again this is all thanks to the concept of keeping a small ryokan in order to maximize guest attentiveness. After understanding this I can comprehend the impressive statistic that nearly 40% of guests are repeaters. 

In conclusion, it seems that if you want to go on an extraordinary journey away from modern society, you need look no further than feeling the warmth of another's heart. With unmatched service and hospitality, stay at Beniya and you will be able to enjoy this same sensation. 

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Justin Velgus

Justin Velgus @justin.velgus

Justin Velgus (ジャスティン ベルガス) is a long-term resident and promoter in the Tohoku region. He has been a content producer for JapanTravel.com since 2012 and was the Miyagi Prefecture Regional Partner 2013-2015. Justin's over 300 published travel and culture articles come from a background of studying in Akita, teaching English in Miyagi through the JET Program, and working for the government in Fukushima. He lives in the gyutan capital of the world, Sendai.   Justin is an expert in local culture and history. He was the first foreign volunteer at Sendai City Museum and regularly advises the local volunteer guide group GOZAIN , which he is a veteran member, on guiding techniques and hidden locations in the city even locals don't know about. In his free time he enjoys delivering original walking tours, such as his Dark Sendai Tour (ghost tour) or Kokubuncho Mystery Tour (redlight district tour). Justin is also a Certified Sake Professional.

Original by Shozo Fujii
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