Araya Totoan is a luxurious ryokan in Yamashiro Onsen whose history extends back to 1639. It is the best place to stay if you want to get in touch with old Japan and create unforgettable memories.
I visited this amazing place during my trip to the Hokuriku region of Japan. It was a fascinating place to explore, and Araya Totoan and Yamashiro Onsen were the highlights of my trip.
When many of us think of Japan, we often imagine an exotic land filled with wonders of culture and nature. We imagine ourselves exploring its beautiful scenery and getting in touch with its proud and interesting history. We envision ourselves walking in the footsteps of a great samurai lord or a wise monk.
Whether through enjoying traditional meals or relaxing in tranquility baths, we try to get a feel of what life in those times would have been like. If some of you count yourself among these time voyagers, let me introduce you to a place that will provide you with these unique experiences that you will surely remember for the rest of your life, and it is Araya Totoan.
The wondrous tale of this ryokan begins with an order by the ruler of the powerful Maeda Family to safeguard the family-owned Yamashiro hot spring. Since then, 18 generations of proud owners have run this unique ryokan.
During that time, many famous guests stayed at this prestigious ryokan. These include the members of the Imperial family and the famous artist Kitaoji Rosanjin, who often visited the ryokan during his one-year stay in the town and even created many art pieces for the ryokan.
The town in which the Araya Totoan is located, Yamashiro Onsen, has an even more impressive history. It spans over 1,300 years and is considered one of the best hot springs in the Hokuriku region.
I arrived on a train to Kaga onsen station, where a shuttle bus from the ryokan picked me up and took me there.
As we were driving, I got the chance to look at the streets of Yamashiro Onsen. It’s such a cozy town, and I knew I had to explore it later when I had the chance.
When I arrived at Araya Totoan, I was seated in the lobby, and while the check-in procedure was completed, the traditionally dressed staff members served me some tea. I also got the chance to walk around the ryokan a bit, and I have to say it is superbly decorated. There are many wonderful pieces of art, including the ones made by Rosanjin, whom I mentioned earlier.
A major part of every ryokan are, of course, the rooms in which you stay. Therefore, I am happy to tell you that the rooms here are nothing short of spectacular. You can truly feel the weight of history and connect with culture in a way that most other types of accommodations simply cannot match.
Each room is spectacular in its own way. Take, for example, the Sukiya (tea-ceremony) style room. The lighting of this room is dimmed to enhance the characteristic shadows found in Japanese rooms.
The alcove is decorated with the native grasses of the season, featuring paintings and calligraphy of Rosanjin. Also, there are hanging scrolls that have been handed down from generation to generation. Or the great “Wakana” room with an open-air bath. Free-flowing hot water straight from the hot spring source comes into the room’s Japanese cypress bath.
The layout is spaciously designed, with the main room connected to the bedroom, which is furnished with low beds. This guest room also features an open-air terrace, design chairs, and contemporary works of art specially picked by the proprietor – all for your enjoyment.
But my room was something even better. After the check-in procedure was completed, I was escorted to my room. When I got there. I was blown away by it. The official name of this room was Maeda-han Stateroom “Ochin-no-ma,” but the staff members told me that it is often nicknamed the Shogun room.
For those of you who don’t know, shoguns were practically rulers of Japan in the Middle Ages. Meaning that this room was reserved for the most prestigious guests. In all honesty, this felt more like a small suite than a room. It was huge and was designed in a traditional Japanese style.
It contained one large traditional room whose distinctive features are, as you can see, vermillion red walls. These red walls are colored with a special paint called Bengara, which is said to be the favorite color of the shogun.
Staff members explained everything about the room and then served me more tea and refreshments at the beautiful table in the middle of this room.
In addition to this red room, there was also the adjacent relaxation room with two chairs and a table next to a large window looking onto the forested hill. Moreover, a large foyer was included as well, leaving you enough room to place your luggage and other items. The sleeping area was again a large room with two big and comfortable beds. There was also a desk to work at, which you know I love.
An additional room housed a Japanese toilet, while the main bathroom had a large counter and all the amenities I needed. But the highlight was definitely the private semi open-air bath. Fun fact, I had not only one but two open-air baths inside my room which were fed by the hot spring water directly from the source.
I feel I could spend the days in that room just relaxing and not going anywhere. But there was so much to explore. All in all, the room was spacious and luxurious! Probably one of the best ryokan rooms I stayed at. I also had to try the famous large hot spring bats they had here.
The hot spring water of Yamashiro is a rare and precious national resource because it springs out from a source that lies only a few dozen meters below the ground. Since Araya Totoan is one of the oldest continuous-running ryokans in the whole area, it has the special privilege of drawing the largest amount of hot spring water of all the hotels in Yamashiro.
The spring water here is of superior quality and has won international acclaim. There are three distinct baths in this ryokan: Ruriko, Gensen-Kaku, and the special bathroom “Karasu-yu”.
The name of the Ruriko bath comes from the principal Buddhist image of Yakuoin Onsenji Temple, “Yakushi Ruriko Nyorai” (Medicine Buddha of Lapis Lazuli Light), which is also the guardian deity of Yamashiro Onsen (hot spring). The bath was constructed during the Showa period in the middle of the 20th century.
The Japanese hinoki bathtub and the wall panels of Hiba produce a fragrant wood scent that complements the aroma of the hot spring water and improves the whole experience. The hot spring water here is famous for its many, many therapeutic benefits. Such as against low back pain, neuralgia, female illnesses, skincare, etc.
If you drink the spring water, it can help you with arteriosclerosis, diabetes, hypertension, chronic constipation, etc. Many people, including myself, have had huge improvements in their health thanks to the hot spring water.
I recommend this to everyone, not just people with illnesses. Because it is a perfect way to relax from the constant rush of sightseeing, it can truly give you the energy boost you need to enjoy your trip even more!
No stay at a ryokan would be complete without the delicious Japanese food. Depending on the season, chefs use different local ingredients to prepare exquisite meals for the guest of the ryokan.
For example, in summer, you will be able to taste oysters, neon flyings squids, eggplants, and watermelons. Whereas, in winter, snow crabs, codfish, lotus root, and turnips are among the many ingredients the meals contain.
I had the pleasure of eating both dinner and breakfast here, and as you would expect, they were spectacular. The dinner was a 12-course meal full of delicious local autumn ingredients of every sort, from mushrooms and tofu to fish and meat. Not only was the food delicious, but also beautifully presented thanks to the famous local ceramic plates, the Kutani ware, or Kutani-yaki.
The artist Rosanjin, who I mentioned before, was also a big food connoisseur and said the famous line that “the vessel is clothing for the food inside.” And I am sure you will agree that beautifully designed plates and bowls will significantly enhance the experience of dining.
Araya Totoan has a great location. It is located right in the center of Yamashiro Onsen, opposite a unique bath house called Ko-Soyu. Yamashiro Onsen itself is one of the four hot spring towns that make up Kaga Onsen.
There are several interesting points in this part of town. Hatori Shrine, which protects the town, is one such palace. Another must-see place is the Rosanjin’s Iroha Soan, a tea house that was made famous by the artist Rosanjin, who stayed there for one year creating his art.
The rest of the town is also interesting to explore. And as I said, it’s a small cozy town ideal for exploring while wearing traditional yukata or kimono. I just did that and had a lot of fun. Kutani-yaki Museum is also nearby, where you can learn how these wonderful pottery are made.
The ryokan is accessible in 40 min by the airport bus from Komatsu Airport. Or in 15-minutes by bus or 10-minutes by taxi from Kaga Onsen Station. In addition, they offer a shuttle service from Kaga Onsen Station, but you have to make a reservation.
To conclude, this is a truly unique place that is perfect for any fan of Japanese culture and history. The memories you make here will stay with you for the rest of your life. Check out Araya Totoan’s website to learn more about them!