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The ryokan [traditional Japanese-style inn] in Akita Prefecture called Miyakowasure (都わすれ; “forget the city”), also known as Natsuse Onsen, is unquestionably the best in all of Japan–at least according to our Japanese correspondent Yoshio. Out of all of the ryokan that he has ever visited, he can confidently say that this is his number-one pick.

Yoshio has stayed at literally hundreds of hotels and ryokan across the country for both business and pleasure, but he recently experienced an unparalleled level of hospitality and overall quality during his stay at this particular inn. He even thinks that hotel managers from across Japan and the world should spend a night there to learn a thing or two! That’s how enthusiastically he praises his most recent visit.

Join Yoshio for an in-depth look at this spectacular ryokan in northern Japan after the jump!

Miyakowasure‘s official site offers the following descriptions of the traditional inn:

“Since the Edo period, many customers have loved the Miyakowasure for its medicinal bath. Miyakowasure, literally meaning to forget the city, is a quiet place where you may leave behind the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the great nature and the exclusive onsen [hot spring] at the end of a mountain road. The comfortable “Modern Japanese” design of the hotel, which is a mixture of Japanese and Western style, is waiting for you…”

There are no other houses or hotels in the vicinity. The silence lets you hear even the sound of the stream, the life of the woods, the birds singing and the sound of the snow falling. Surrounded by pristine nature, you can enjoy the onsen welling up from underground and Tohoku cuisine using the finest ingredients…You can rejuvenate and replenish yourself. Please come and truly appreciate the pleasure of Miyakowasure.

Our reporter Yoshio originally planned to write about his experience at Miyakowasure for our Japanese-language RocketNews24 sister site, but feared that an influx of travelers to the region would spoil some of its charming, unorthodox appeal. Consequently, he decided to publish it here on the English-language RocketNews24 site only.

Let’s let Yoshio take it away now as he describes his stay at Miyakowasure in the chronological order of events. You’ll probably want to book a room as soon as you’re finished reading!

1) I had made prior reservations to be picked up by a courtesy transportation service offered by the ryokan. The shuttle conveniently picks up and drops off guests at Kakunodate Station on the Akita Shinkansen [Akita Bullet Train] line. When I stepped into the shuttle, the driver unexpectedly handed me a cold oshibori for me to freshen up with. My stay was off to an impressive start.

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2) After about 30 minutes of driving, Miyakowasure finally came into view. I then noticed a female staff member bowing at a 45-degree angle at the entrance of the inn! I’ve never experienced such a royal welcome anywhere else. Perhaps she had estimated my arrival time and gotten into position before the car came into sight.

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3) I passed through a lounge on my way inside the inn. I sat down on the sofa and presently a staff member came over to greet me. She asked me what kind of ‘welcome drink’ I would like from a choice of beer, coffee, black tea, or apple juice. I picked apple juice, and she quickly set up a little place to rest my drink while another staff member came over to begin explaining about the interior of the building to me. My drink arrived right at the end of the explanation. In other words, the two sequence of events were perfectly timed to complement each other–there was no needless waiting time for me, the guest.

▼A supply of all-you-can-eat fruit was displayed on the inner left table.

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▼This is hot coffee. Those are tiny, floral-colored sugar cubes in the cone on top.

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4) Furthermore, there was a free espresso machine and an unlimited supply of fruit in the lounge. Also, all of the drinking water in the building was well water, which is very pure and good for your health.

5) After finishing the check-in procedures, I was taken to my private room. There is a private rotenburo [open-air bath] attached to each room in the inn which is accessible 24-hours a day. I also found a supply of complementary products like makeup remover, facial lotion, and emulsion for women, as well as facial lotion and other products for men. These amenities were perfect. In addition, there were four yukata (two apiece for men and women), samue and bathrobes (one apiece for men and women), and two towels per guest. By the way, disposable indoor slippers were also available for those visitors who prefer not to wear slippers that other guests have already worn.   

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6) The fridge in the room was stocked with a variety of alcoholic drinks, which were reasonably priced. For example, a 350 mm can of beer cost 350 yen (US$3.28), and a 500 mm can cost 500 yen ($4.68). Soft drinks were around 200 yen ($1.87) each, pretty reasonable considering there must be high shipping charges in this mountainous region, and this, after all, a hotel.

7) This was actually my second visit to the inn, and to my surprise, the staff had prepared a complementary gift of champagne for me. I was deeply moved!

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8) There are three kinds of baths at Miyakowasure. The first kind is a private outdoor rotenburo linked to each of the nine individual guest rooms (the tenth room has a Jacuzzi bath). The second is a large, 24-hour indoor public bath segregated by sex. You need to sign up in order to use the third bath, which can be reserved for blocks of 50 minutes at a time. All of the baths are supplied by continuously flowing natural spring water from its source.

▼An example of the private rotenburo linked to each room

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▼This is the 24-hour segregated large indoor bath.

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▼This is the private bath available on a reservation basis only.

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9) In the large indoor bath, you can choose to drink either ice water or room-temperature water. All of it is of course well water.

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10) In the large bath and reserved bath, there are bath towels and hand towels conveniently ready for use. Because of that, there’s no need for you to bring a towel from your room.

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11) At Miyakowasure you can borrow DVDs and watch them in your room for free. This time, I watched the Ghibli classic My Neighbor Totoro.

▼Books and DVDs are on the bookshelf to the right.

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12) Dinner was fantastic. All of the dishes were prepared using only the freshest of local ingredients and were absolutely delicious. The staff even pushed around a cart full of vegetables so that guests could pick the ones they like best. The tableware and plates were also very stylish.

▼Warning: the following slideshow may cause you to drool uncontrollably:

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13) After dinner, I returned to my room to find that someone had already laid out my futon for me. On top of it, I found an origami crane. I almost began to feel bad about how well the staff were taking care of me. The ashtray on my veranda had been cleaned out, too…

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14) The next day. Breakfast was also unbelievably delicious. Each little dish was laid out extremely carefully. In case you’re wondering, the meal consisted of an all-you-can-eat spread of tomato, corn, raw egg, yogurt, milk, and rice, among other things. While eating, I was asked, “Would you like your futon left the way it is, or would you like us to put it away?” I wanted to lie down again after eating, so I told them it was fine as it was.

▼Check out the breakfast foods in this slideshow:

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15) Time to pay the bill. As I was waiting near the register, a staff member brought me tea.

16) I went to put on my shoes and found a letter next to them! It was a sincere thank you message. My hosts were exceedingly polite right up until the very end of my stay.

17) The courtesy shuttle was waiting for me when I exited the building. As it took off, two female staff members bowed deeply and remained in that position until I could no longer see them. They were those beautiful 45-degree angle bows again.

Well, did you enjoy hearing about my experience? What truly sets Miyakowasure apart is the phenomenal consideration and thoughtfulness from the staff that goes into every little detail of your stay. All of the employees there are extremely well-trained. This time around, my stay for one night with two meals included came to 27,000 yen ($253), but for the amount of top-notch services I received, I am even willing to say that the price is, if anything, a bit low. On a final note, I’d like to say that former soccer star Hidetoshi Nakata and Lee Teng-hui, a former president of Taiwan, have also stayed there in the past.

   ▼Lee Teng-hui’s Visit: Messages to Japan

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Information
Natsuse Onsen Miyakowasure/夏瀬温泉 都わすれ
84 Natsuse Aza Sotsuda Tazawako Senbokushi Akita Prefecture 〒014-1113
〒014-1113 秋田県仙北市田沢湖卒田字夏瀬84
Email: natsuse@taenoyu.com (English information by email only)
Phone: 0187-44-2220
Fax: 0187-44-2219
Official site (English, Japanese)
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Original article by Yoshio
Photos © RocketNews24