Nestled in the serene slopes of Mt. Haruna in Gunma Prefecture, a short train ride from Tokyo, lies the enchanting town of Ikaho Onsen, and within it, my destination, a ryokan called Kouunkan.
Upon arrival at Kouunkan i was greeted by helpful staff and led to my room, where tea and snacks awaited – a testament to the impeccable service Japan is famous for. The uniqueness of Kouunkan lies in its rooms, each bearing a distinct name and design, reflecting various aspects of Japanese culture.
My room, ‘Urushi’, was adorned in vermilion lacquer, a traditional technique, creating a mesmerizing ambiance. The intricate details of urushi lacquering, encompassing columns, walls, and floors, symbolize the essence of Japanese aesthetics.
Each of these rooms, including the majestic ‘Misu’, inspired by the noble residences of Kyoto, showcases a different aspect of traditional Japanese aesthetics. The ‘Misu’ room, with its torii gate entrance, transports guests to the ancient world of Japanese nobility.
The dining experience at Kouunkan is a celebration of local cuisine, intricately tied to the seasons. During my stay, the autumn-themed menu was a delightful exploration of seasonal ingredients and traditional culinary techniques.
Each dish was a work of art, carefully prepared and presented, embodying the spirit of the season.
The flavors were a testament to the rich agricultural heritage of the region, highlighting the freshness and quality of local produce.
Venturing out of Kouunkan, I found myself immersed in the quaint and charming ambiance of Ikaho Onsen Town. This town, steeped in tradition and natural beauty, is most famous for its 365-step stone staircase, a symbolic path promising good fortune to those who climb it.
As I ascended the steps, I passed through the vibrant heart of the town, lined with an array of shops and eateries. This bustling strip is a mosaic of local culture, offering everything from handcrafted souvenirs to tantalizing street food.
Leaving Kouunkan, I carried with me memories of a place where traditional Japanese culture harmoniously blends with modern comforts. From the unique thematic rooms to the therapeutic hot springs and the vibrant town of Ikaho Onsen, Kouunkan stands as a testament to Japan’s enduring charm and hospitality. So if you are looking for a traditional ryokan relatively close to Tokyo, check out Kouunkan!