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Saturday, 23 June 2007

The Kayotei: A Japanese Ryokan

Written by Scott Haas
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KayoteiBefore 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.Kayotei

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.


INTRAVEL: What is the rough history of the property when it opened, how has it developed over the years?

MK: Thirty years ago I suddenly closed the ryokan my parents had run for 20 years. It had a capacity of 200 guests. Then I built the Kayotei with only ten rooms for a capacity of 24 guests. In those days, Japan enjoyed rapid economic growth and people took it for granted that larger meant better. However, I decided to pursue quality, not quantity, which was a challenge for the era. The Kayotei came to be well accepted by those who are sensible and lamented the fact that mass production and mass consumption had ruined Japans authenticity. Since the opening of the Kyotei we have renovated our ryokan from time to time.Kayotei

INTRAVEL: How does it differentiate itself from other ryokan?

MK: The Kayotei can boast of its natural mineral hot-spring and great care and hospitality to meet every need and whim of each guest; I, myself pick up and see off our guests at Komatsu Airport or JR station and sometimes talk with our guests at the Cocktail Lounge, which has promoted chances to make friends with our guests. The chef and I go into the mountains and pick edible wild plants. I write a dinner menu with ink and brush for each guest. It is impossible for a large-scaled ryokan to do such things.Kayotei

INTRAVEL: What impact, if any, does it have on the surrounding region?

MK: Our management, in order to pursue the high quality needed to entertain guests, has inspired other ryokan owners, some of whom even changed their properties into smaller scale ones.


INTRAVEL: What is the history of the Kamiguchi family?

MK: About ten generations before mine, my ancestors were farmers in a mountain village. My grandfather was a timber merchant and my father started ryokan management about 50 years ago.

INTRAVEL: How do people learn about coming to the property?

MK: Quite a few guests have come to the Kayotei by word of mouth and some through the JTB (The Japan Travel Bureau).

We are also planning to start our web site in English soon.

Kayotei

 

 

INTRAVEL: What is the clientele? Japanese? Foreign?

MK: 90% - Japanese. 10% Foreign: including France, Italy Switzerland, UK, USA, and Hong Kong.

INTRAVEL: What is the future of the property? How will tradition combine with modernity?

MK: I would like to pursue a 100% eco-friendly environment and hospitality program that would include meals, bedding materials, room interior and exterior, and much more. At the same time I would also like to provide convenient and comfortable high-tech facilities such as PCs. However, I sometimes dream of rooms without clocks, PCs, TV-sets, and any other modern devices!


INTRAVEL: Who designed the property? What else has that person designed?

MK: Mainly I designed the Kayotei with the help of an architect friend. A Mr. Takahashi from Akita prefecture, who is also a carpenter, and I discussed every detail. He has designed some traditional Japanese houses for famous writers in Japan.

INTRAVEL: What gastronomical aspects fit into the property?Kayotei

MK: We aim to provide 100% organic ingredients, including fish from the Sea of Japan as well as local vegetables, eggs, and edible wild plants (we pick them).

Kayotei

INTRAVEL: Anything else?

MK: We want our guests to soak in the hot springs and relax.

If you’re interested in staying at the Kayotei, contact them at:

 

KAYOTEI

Ho-20-1 Higashi-machi, Yamanaka
Enuma, Ishikawa 922-0114
Tel. 0761-78-1410
Fax. 0761-78-1121
Bookings can be made through:
www.real-japan.com

For more info about ryokans: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/accomodations/ryokan.html

 


© Scott Haas

Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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