Kamesei Ryokan is a cozy onsen inn operated by an American-Japanese couple located in Chikuma City in Nagano Prefecture.
I stayed here during my trip across this mountainous part of Japan and had a lot of fun there.
After I arrived at the local train station where Tyler-san, the owner of the ryokan, picked me up and drove me to the center of town where the ryokan was located. Upon my arrival at the Kamesei Ryokan, I was pleasantly surprised by how cozy the place felt. The whole lobby was decorated with many paintings, sculptures, mannequins, and all sorts of interesting things.
After the check-in, Tyler showed me to my room and explained everything I need to know about the ryokan. He told me about its hot baths, dinner, and everything it’s offered here. He also mentioned that he offers an eco-bike tour of the town and asked if I wanted to join it tomorrow. I gladly accepted it.
The room in which I stayed was a spacious, traditional Japanese-style room with futon beds. It included everything I would expect from a place such as this one and I was quite satisfied with it. In addition to the main room area, there was a separate smaller area with chairs and a table to relax. Additionally, there was a toilet and a small bathroom area.
I like the room but I didn’t plan on spending much time in here because there was so much to do in and around the ryokan and I was only here for a day so I wanted to use it as best I could.
I quickly made my way to the hot spring to relax after a day of travel. Earlier, Tyler mentioned that the water here is rich in sulfur content and is luxuriously alkaline, with a pH of around 8.6. The minerals have the effect of leaving your skin feeling silky-smooth.
And he even mentioned that there is no need to take a shower afterward like in most other onsens. You can just leave residuals of the water on your skin to make it silky and smooth. So you will surely love this place. Only a small warning since the concentration of sulfur is high; you can expect it to smell strange at first.
There is a separate bed for men and women of course and there is an outdoor and indoor hotspot in the ryokan.
The indoor bath was quite spacious, and I spent a lot of time relaxing there before going outside to enjoy the outdoor one.
The outdoor bath was located in a garden that features a mixture of plants and trees creating a natural environment for enjoying the onsen water. I especially loved soaking in the starlight at night. I am pretty sure I spent over an hour soaking in these baths and enjoying them fully.
In addition to these baths, there is a private bath that you can book in the lobby. You will get a wooden block with your time slot, which will then hang at the doors to the private bath, so other guests know it’s occupied. It is an outdoor bath as well, and it is made of tiles and features a hinoki (Japanese cypress) border. I highly recommend you check this out.
After the bath, I made my way to the dining room, where other guests had already been seated at their own tables and the staff member started serving the dinner. It was, of course, a traditional Japanese dinner made out of fresh local ingredients and included things like fish, salad, miso, rice, a hot pot dish, a steamed dish, a vinegar dish, etc.
Tyler-san, as well as other staff members, were there to explain all the food that was served and to answer any questions we might have. Of course, during the entire dinner, I was wearing traditional Japanese yukata. That’s the best way to do it when you are visiting a traditional ryokan like this one. It really improves the experience so it is a must in my opinion.
After dinner, I made my way around the streets and alleys of the town, met some interesting locals, and checked out some interesting spots around town. I had a lot of fun playing a shooting game with toy guns. I even won a souvenir! Before bed, I went for another round in the hot spring since you know how much I love to have a bath after dinner and some sightseeing.
The next morning I started the day with breakfast in the dining hall again. It was traditional Japanese food, and again, it was delicious. It gave me enough energy for the day of sightseeing.
This morning I had an eco bike tour planned with Tyler san and he took me around the town and showed me a lot of interesting places.
He talked to me about local myths, legends, and customs, and I truly felt in touch with this space and its people. It was really fun biking around and learning about all of these things. Some of the highlights for me include learning why Japanese people have so many decorated roofs (It’s a way to display their fortune and wealth) and learning a lot about the monuments that can be found around the town.
I also loved learning about the local area and its agricultural products. You see, this part of Japan is famous for its apples and apricots, so we even visited an apple farm and talked to some of the local farmers and got to try their amazing apples!
It’s a really great way to sightsee the area. You get some exercise, and you don’t have to spend money and fuel driving around in a car. Tyler-san was a great guide and taught me so much.
There was one very interesting thing in town which I couldn’t visit on that tour using the bike. That was the Arato Castle, located on top of a large hill. It would have been pretty difficult for me to cycle up so for this one, I took a taxi. I found this castle really interesting. It was renovated recently, and all the walls and buildings feel authentic.
It is not as large and beautiful as some other famous castles and it can barely be called a castle; it’s more of a hill fort. However, it has quite a charm to it. It overlooks this valley and offers great views.
I could really imagine myself standing there in medieval Japan and looking down at this valley to see if any people or armies would pass through. It’s truly a great place to immerse yourself because you feel so high up above the rest of the world, and the mountains that stretch in all directions truly make the scenery spectacular.
I highly recommend you come and visit this place. There is also an interesting temple along the way. But unfortunately, I did not have time to check it out.
All in all, I immensely enjoyed my stay at the Kamesei ryokan, and I really felt welcomed here thanks to the hospitality of Tyler-san and his family.
So if you’re looking for an affordable, English-friendly ryokan located in Nagano, Kamesei Ryokan is the place for you. Make sure to check out their website to learn more.