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Old 01-29-2018, 10:19 PM
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Default Japan Tour: Japanese Inns & Hot Springs Book Review

by Rob Goss & Akihiko Seki (Photographer)

ISBN: 4-8053-1392-7

240 pp

There are thousands of ryokans and onsens in Japan, filled with everything from kitsch to classic, from plastic to natural, and from relatively cheap to "how much have you got?"
Akihiko Seki and Rob Goss have written a beautiful book (published in 2017) elaborating on what they consider to be the 40 best of these ryokans and onsens. Some of the places mentioned are small, including some with only three rooms. One of these three-room inns, Tenku-No-Mori in Kyushu, is located on 148 acres.
Many of the places mentioned are quite old. For example, the Houshi Onsen in Ishikawa dates back 1,300 years (built in 718) and is called "the second oldest hotel in the world.Ф
There are beautiful pictures throughout the book, making it quite suitable as a coffee table book. Just flipping through the book might help the reader relax and feel he is already halfway to an unforgettable experience.
The writing style is elegant and informative. This was not written by a smug adolescent trying to be funny or cute.
The book starts with a two page map of Japan with a (maybe too) tiny picture of each onsen and where it is located on the map. Nine of the onsens are in Kyoto.
There are then a few pages on The Ryokan Experience (a quick but delicious explanation of the food you will get at a ryokan, and a brief description of what you will find at a ryokan). Following that there are a few pages on A Tradition of Fine Hospitality (an interesting history of how ryokans came about) and finally a few pages on A Guide to Etiquette (what to do and not to do in ryokans).
The book is then divided into five sections: Around Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara, Central Japan, Western and Southern Japan and finally Hokkaido and Northern Japan. The book concludes with two pages on Ryokan Travel Tips, discussing the best times to go, how to make bookings, access to ryokans, what is included in the cost of one night etc.
It is not until literally the last paragraph of the book, on page 215, where the costs of the ryokans are fully explained. Each of the 40 ryokans covered had a small section at the end listing the formal name (in English and Japanese), address, phone number, web site, e-mail, number or rooms and room rate. The room rates are listed from е (the cheapest) to еееее (the most expensive), but it isn't until page 215 that the meaning is explained.
The е means around $100 US (about е11,300 as this review is written). The ее means $200, the еее means $300, the ееее means $500 and the еееее means $1,000. This being Japan, that is the cost per person per night. If a family of four were to stay in the lone еееее ryokan, it would cost $4,000 (е452,000) per night. The cost does, however, include nice meals.
Of the 40 ryokans listed, two are е, one is ее, 15 are еее, 21 are ееее and one is еееее. That lone еееее ryokan is the aforementioned Tenku-no-mori in Kagoshima, Kyushu in case you feel like splashing out.
If you can't afford even one night at any of these ryokans or onsens, the book is still a pleasure to have and to browse through.

Marshall Hughes
Buy this book from Amazon USA | UK | Japan


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