A budget stay in the centre of town that’s like visiting grandma’s house in the countryside.

If you’re looking for traditional accommodation in Japan, you can pay through the nose or opt for something bare bones, but it will always be a memorable stay. A recent trip to the famous onsen town of Kusatsu in Gunma Prefecture was a great reminder of that, because the ryokan found by our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma was nothing fancy in terms of appearance or amenities, but its unassuming nature is exactly what made it so special, and why we’re recommending it to visitors today.

Called Kusatsu Onsen Tajimaya Ryokan, this lodging is a convenient three-minute walk from Yubatake, the “hot water field” in the middle of town that gushes out the largest volume of flowing water of any hot spring in Japan.

▼ Yubatake

Many of the ryokan in the centre of town have public baths that guests can use during their stay, and with the water being pumped so close to the source 24 hours a day, the baths here have a reputation for being some of the hottest in the country. Tajimaya Ryokan is one such inn where the baths are constantly being replenished with natural hot spring water, and guests can soak in them as much as they want, with prices starting at 4,200 yen (US$26.60) for an overnight stay.

This is fantastic value for a ryokan so central to everything, and what makes it even more special is the fact that it’s run by the owners of Tajimaya, a store that sells local products like homemade tsukudani (preserved food boiled in soy sauce), pickles, and freshly made manju (sweet steamed buns).

The ryokan is located behind Tajimaya, and guests who speak to staff can be shown to the inn through the back exit of the store.

▼Ta daaa!

The slippers at the entrance welcome you into the old-fashioned ryokan from the minute you step into them, and the lobby feels like a room in grandma’s house in the countryside.

Just a street away from the main shopping street, the inn is immediately relaxing, and after receiving the room key at reception, Masanuki headed up to his room on the second floor, stopping by the restrooms on the way, where he found they were basic but clean and well-maintained.

The toilets, washrooms, and refrigerator are shared and there are no free amenities like towels or roomwear, although those who don’t bring their own can rent them for a fee.

▼ Time to open the door to the room and see what lies inside.

▼ Stepping into the hallway, the setup was traditional and homely.

The low heated table in the middle of the room was topped with everything you’d want to see at a ryokan — tea, sweets, and the TV remote control.

Turning on the T.V. and watching the local stations is a fun part of travelling that Masanuki always enjoys, so he immediately settled in, happily munching on a manju as he watched the Sunday news on Gunma T.V.

After relaxing in his room for a while, Masanuki felt it was time for a soak, so he grabbed the towel and a change of clothes he’d brought with him, and headed to the public baths.

This bath draws its water directly from the Yubatake, so it’s piping hot. Masanuki made sure to ease himself in slowly to allow his body to become accustomed to the extreme change in temperature, eventually sliding all the way in for a relaxing soak. 

It was a wonderful bath that reminded him how good the local waters are, and when he stepped out of the bathing room, he felt rejuvenated and refreshed.

The only thing he had to complain about was the lack of strength in the hair dryer, which took a long time to dry his hair.

Still, it was only a small complaint, and because there were so few guests in the building, Masanuki was able to relax and feel like he’d reserved the place all for himself. Once he was back in his room, he took the futon out of the coset and laid it out on the floor, settling in for a good night’s sleep.

▼ Goodnight!

When he woke the next morning, Masanuki felt well rested and ready to tackle another day of sightseeing. Though meals weren’t included in his stay, there were plenty of shops and a convenience store just a couple of minutes’ walk away, so he was able to eat out, which allowed him to enjoy the beauty of the town.

So if you’re looking for a place to rest your head and soak in the glorious waters of Kusatsu on a budget, Tajimaya Ryokan is great value for money. It might be no-frills but it’s filled with old-school charm and character that’ll make you feel like a local, and it’s close to everything you need, including the hot spring face baths in the centre of town!

Ryokan Information
Kusatsu Onsen Tajimaya Ryokan / 草津温泉 田島屋旅館
Address: Gunma-ken, Azuma-gun, Kusatsu-cho, Kusatsu 45

Related: Rakuten Travel
Photos ©SoraNews24
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