Remember when you were a child and you went to a rich person’s house for the first time? It could be a family or school friend. Remember when your eyes lit up and you were looking longingly at the immaculate gardens, or the beautiful staircase? How you wish you had a slumber party there? Well this was the feeling I got when I stayed at Kagetsu Ryokan, a family owned inn about 15 minutes walk from Nishi-Maizuru, which itself is 10 minutes by train from the international cruise ship terminal at Maizuru Port.
Of course, everyone has a different idea of what their fantasy stay would be like. While some believe breakfast in bed is the height of luxury, I think it is a bit overrated, especially with crumbs all over your bed. However, they have the next best thing, which is breakfast served in your room on the low table over the tatami mat. You don’t have to sit zazen style either, just whatever is comfortable.
With the soft morning light filtering through the paper screens, all you can hear at breakfast is the near silent bubbling of tofu being warmed by the tea candle. The soft, almost creamy taste of tofu is a great way to break your fast, along with a traditional serving of fish, soup and pickles. The exquisite glaze on the pot and bowls are mesmerizing, and I felt that I could spend hours just admiring their handiwork.
At this ryokan, you can choose to have one or two meals included in the tariff. I would definitely recommend at least having breakfast here, especially as the concept of a breakfast cafe culture still quite embryonic in this sleepy town.
For large groups, dinner is served in the banquet room. Decorated in the aristocratic style of the early Meiji period in the late nineteenth century, the curved wood cornices and Noh stage provides a glimpse of high culture in that period. You could almost imagine the trickle of sake being poured during a state dinner, along with geishas performing on stage. As you can expect from a ryokan of this standard, seasonal set menus featuring local delicacies is available. You also have the option to upgrade to the crab banquet, including the Matsuba Crab in winter, in a hot pot, baked or sashimi style.
The Japanese Garden across from the Banquet room is stunning. Like most Japanese gardens, this is one designed for viewing rather than strolling or touching. The Kohaku and other kinds of Japanese carp here have a charmed life with a beautiful pond and a mature garden with trees perfectly manicured like bonsai. It is a shame that you can only catch a glimpse from the guest rooms though.
While parts of the ryokan feels a bit dated (think hair tonic in the bathrooms), all the rooms are immaculate and the retro charm adds to the feeling of homely relaxation. This is one of the best ryokans to eat and relax in the Northern part of Kyoto Prefecture, and offers good value for money.
The matron here claims to speak no English, if when I conversed with her with basic Japanese, she lit up with some English phrases. This is one of the better ryokan in Nishi Maizuru at prices that are at least 20% less than a comparable place in Kyoto city. They take telephone and email reservations, and it may be a good idea for Japanese speaker, such as the hotel staff of your previous stay in Japan to book. You never know, but the owner here might even surprise you with a word of English.