They say first impressions count, and my first impression when I entered Katoya Ryokan was “omigod I get to stay here?” I’ve stayed in a few ryokan over the years, and this is easily the nicest of all of them.
It is all in Japanese style, but obviously built quite recently; all light wood, new tatami and clean lines. The décor is simple, but with some lovely details like hanging scrolls and tiny doll families. The entranceway even has two old, iron kettles hung in mock hearths to add a touch of history.
It makes good use of natural light too, with large windows in the foyer, and down the main corridor.
I stayed during the popular Hanagasa festival, and it was the perfect location to enjoy the festivities. I could walk out the door and immediately be in the middle of the celebrations, but the building is set far enough back from the street that the only noise that filters in is the traditional festival music that is broadcast across the whole town.
Katoya is an easy five-minute walk from the Obanazawa city office bus stop, which you can get to by way of an old-fashioned green and gold bus from Oishida Station. The bus doesn’t run very frequently, so a taxi might also be a good option.
When I arrived, well before check in time, they were good enough to get my room ready as quickly as possible so I could get settled before going to the festival.
The room was a simple yet charming tatami room, with the futon already laid out for me, and the yukata and towels waiting for me in the small cupboard. The window opened onto a small bamboo forest, which made the whole room feel fresh and cool, and added a little bit of privacy.
The bath is also lovely, but absolutely tiny, with really only room for one or two people at a time. Because the hotel was full when I stayed, I was asked to indicate roughly what time I wanted to take a bath, to avoid congestion.
After spending the day at Hanagasa Matsuri, Katoya was the perfect place to go back to for a bath, a cup of tea, and a very comfortable night’s sleep.