Posted in Japanese Culture, Trips around Japan

New Year at Hosenkaku Ryokan

New Year’s “get-away” was spent at a Ryokan in Beppu. We had a lot of trouble trying to find a place that had rooms enough for our group of 15 people-all family. It was down to crunch time and hubby and I thought that we would have to spend the New Year holidays at home-which would have actually been okay with me because I was still not feeling very well.

Seems like we always end up in Beppu-quite honestly we would have preferred to go someplace else.

The Ryokan was down on the main road near the beach. An older hotel that has been around at least for the past 50 plus years.

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A couple of photos from the lobby. They had the traditional New Year sake barrels displayed.

I decided that I’m going to write a gut-level honest review of this ryokan because it was expensive and all of us really felt that they could have done much better.

The price was 20,000 yen per person/ per night or about $175.00 per person per night. We stayed for 2 nights. Breakfast and dinner was included in the price.

Our large group arrived  and assembled in the lobby. We have stayed at various ryokan in Kyushu and around Japan and most always we are greeted in the lobby by staff  who assist us by giving us a short orientation of the facility and offering help with luggage and such. We got none of that at this ryokan. It had a rather stiff and “business-like” atmosphere. None of the warmth we are usually greeted with.

The usual check-in business accomplished, we lugged our belongings up to the 5th floor and everyone found their rooms. The hallways were dim and drab. Decorated with bamboo poles, rocks and false kawara roofs didn’t do anything to hide the worn carpeting. A quick look around and it was obvious that the place was in need of repair. The hallways were like a maze-twisting and turning with sets of stairs in between them-not very convenient for the elderly who were with us. Especially since there were no railings to hold on to.

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Several halls were completely dark. We weren’t sure if that was because they were trying to save money or because there were no guests staying in those rooms. We were under the impression that they had a full booking. What ever it was, it didn’t do anything to curb the already drab and dull atmosphere.

The rooms were nothing special and they were very dusty and damp.The ryokan website listed room amenities but when we got there things were different. There was no hair dryer or coffee maker. The “free wifi” was too weak to even try and use.  I’m trying to think of something positive to say but honestly the rooms were nothing special. Everyone felt the same.

For breakfast and dinner all guests were served in the tatami – style dining room. When my husband’s family saw the “tables” they were not happy. The ryokan used tiny tray-like tables that most ryokan do not use anymore simply because they are not at all comfortable to sit at-being only about a foot off the floor and a foot and a half wide they really do not lend anything towards having a fun, relaxing New Year’s meal.

I made no comment about the situation- my review is based upon what my husband’s family thought and they are all Japanese-although I agreed with the general consensus.

The meals , although elaborate looking-really were not. The food was mediocre. A mountain of sashimi that was way too much to eat-no one was able to eat all of it.  It got to be kind-of a joke with everyone trying to pass-off their left over sashimi to the person next to them. The “sashimi mountain” seemed to be served with every meal.

The rest of the food was rather tasteless. Dessert was good-a kind of vanilla pudding with a crusty cookie topping but at a New Year dinner it isn’t the dessert everyone looks forward to. The wait-staff seemed overwhelmed and tired and they came across being cold and grumpy.

The children were served fried rice, fried chicken, sausages, salad, cookies and more. My husband commented that he wished he could order a kid’s meal! If my husband makes that kind of a comment then the food must really be lousy.

The first night when we had returned to our rooms the futons had been taken out of the closet and arranged on the floor for us which is a normal event at a ryokan. In the morning while the guests are having breakfast the staff quickly put them all away into the futon closet again…usually…that is. Not at this ryokan though- much to the chagrin of my mother-in-law who was mortified that the ryokan failed at this basic rule of hospitality-especially since it was the New Year holiday.

One of the main reasons why Japanese love to stay at a ryokan is to relax in the wonderful healing waters of the ryokan onsen-or hot springs. I thought well…at least the onsen should make up for whatever was lacking in other areas.

I was wrong.

The onsen was in bad need of repair. Peeling paint, old, cracked and splintered wood seats and a general lack of real upkeep made the onsen experience at the ryokan super disappointing. The floors were actually dangerous. Many places were covered with reddish-colored mold and very slippery. I had to watch my mother-in-law very carefully because I was so afraid that she would slip and fall. I almost took a spill myself.

My mother-in-law usually loves to take advantage of the rotenburo (out-door pool)  if there is one  but the one at this ryokan was …ridiculous. There were zero privacy screens so anyone in any of the other high-rise buildings in the area had full view of everyone in the out-door pools and, remember in Japan onsen are considered “baths” -we use the facilities naked. Swimming suits are not allowed. Of course men and women are separate (in most places). Needless to say we didn’t use the rotenburo.

Kagami mochi display in the dining room.

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I honestly wanted to post a positive review but then it wouldn’t have been honest. We did not enjoy our stay in this ryokan. Hubby said at the end of the month he is going to start making reservations for the next New Year celebration to make sure we get a decent place to stay so we can really enjoy the holiday. Hotels and ryokan raise their prices almost double for the holiday season! We at least want to enjoy our stay and feel like we got our money’s worth.

 

Author:

Loving life in rural Japan-writer,gardener,hiker, photographer,crochet artist, chief cook and bottle washer!

10 thoughts on “New Year at Hosenkaku Ryokan

  1. Yeah, we’ve ended up with those “dud” places before.😕 hopefully it will be better next time. I lost your email somehow that had the book excerpt. 😔. It is cloudy & foggy here in N.C., all our snow has melted away.🙁. I’m using too many sad imoji’s! God is good …all the time …God is good 🙂😉🤓🎢🌄

    Sent from my iPad

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    1. Hi Anita,
      We were really disappointed with this place. With New Year being the most important holiday here most places make an extra effort – but the neglect ( especially of the Onsen) was really shocking and frustrating… We sure won’t be booking that place again. I’ll send you the link again. No worries.

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  2. Your pictures are really awesome, Connie! ⭐ I guess you use a special camera, lenses and filters?

    To have an outdoor pool at this time of the year, well, that can be fun, as I have known from my own experience (thining of a German winter with snowflakes that melt in hot water then). But swimming suits are not allowed?? That sounds strange to my German ears (and eyes) 🙄 Although I rarely touch my piano nowadays, I was wondering about this one in the pic above due to its ‘lack’ of keys…? How do you call such a musical instrument? I would love to test it! 🙂

    Every blessing to you and yours,
    Susanne from Bavaria ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi schwester!
      I will find information about the instrument for you.

      I will also write a post explaining Japanese hot springs.

      As far as my camera- I use a variety of things, sometimes my iPad, sometimes my Japanese tablet, sometimes my camera – a Canon 50x. I don’t use special filters most of the time. I like a natural photo. I can only say that the Lord has given me a gift of photography. I know you can understand this. I can’t claim any special talent on my own. Xxo

      Liked by 1 person

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