Before I set foot inside a ryokan, the Japanese version of a country inn, I pictured what we have here in New England: Rustic, low-key, old-fashioned, creaking floorboards, pleasant and garrulous hosts, simple fare of roasted, overcooked meats, and incredibly stodgy, faux upscale service. I should have known better.
Japan is super good as a nation at cherry-picking the best global stuff and refining it. And while there is a centuries old tradition of rural inns, what they’ve done over the past 25 years or so is to take the concept of three-star Michelin dining and lodging and turn it Japanese.
This means, in the case of The Kayotei, where I stayed one night, a huge, serene, unbelievably clean house made of blond wood without much furniture, attached to a natural hot spring with private pools and views of the mountains and a sweet, granny-like staff who feed you delicious vegetables and fresh fish. All this while stripped of your civvies and given a comfortable robe and slippers to wear throughout your stay.
I spoke to Masanori Kamiguchi, the owner of the place to find out how and why he performs the magic that cleared my head of worries.