Monday, October 8, 2012

The Japanese Ryokan Experience - Shiraume Ryokan

A visit to Japan is not complete without a stay at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. A stay at a ryokan will set you back quite a lot of ¥ en, so we could only afford one night of indulgence. We picked the Shiraume Ryokan. Located in the Gion district in Kyoto, this lovely ryokan which traces its history to the 17th century used to be an ochaya teahouse. The ryokan is built by the Shirakawa stream, a serene location which is home to the birds and an inspiration artists. No wonder it's one of the best preserved traditional areas in Japan.

Typical in Japan, we took our shoes off at the entrance and were given house slippers to use. We stayed at the Umeichirin room which consists of a living room and a bedroom, separated by a sliding doors.  It also comes with an attached bathroom with a wooden bathtub. Typical of a Japanese style room, there is very little furniture. The living room has a low dining table with chairs, with traditional paintings on the wall, whilst the bedroom has a dressing mirror and small table in the corner. The mirror is covered with a lovely piece of cloth (to be folded over when you're grooming). The futon beds are rolled out just before bedtime. Simple and practical.

The ryokan experience is not complete without a taste of the Japanese Kaiseki dinner (think French fine dining with many, many exquisite small dishes). . We opted for a kobe beef set and a seafood set. I don't remember the names of what we ate but I can tell you every single dish was fresh, tasty and beautifully presented  an absolute gastronomic feast for the stomach and the eyes!

The next morning, we "feasted" again on a Japanese breakfast.  The cosy breakfast room looked out to a small Japanese garden.  After such a hearty breakfast, we skipped lunch!

So, was it worth the 30,000+Yen per person? Absolutely! The welcome was gracious, the rooms were elegant, the food was amazing and the experience was authentic!
Note: The room rate at Shiraume includes dinner and breakfast. 


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