My stay at Yukimurasaki Takayama was one of the biggest highlights of my trip to Japan.
Staying in a traditional Japanese inn, or ryokan, has always been on my bucket list. When you stay in a ryokan you’re expected to… not leave the ryokan premises while you’re there. The only thing that should be on your agenda is: have full meals at the in-house restaurant, soak in the onsen, enjoy the room, meditate and have quiet time. If you leave the ryokan premises at any point, you have failed your visit.
But also, ryokans are always spruced up to be super comfortable and hospitable and warm and just… you don’t want to leave the place. Also because a ryokan stay tends to be on the expensive end.
In my last trip to Japan, we stayed at a ryokan – Yukimurasaki at Takayama – and it was a highlight of the trip. I would say Yukimurasaki is on the mid-range in terms of pricing.
Yukimurasaki is the right balance of tradition fused with western comforts.
The check-in process was very easy and quick. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the hostess, a very smiley lady who prompted us to take off our shoes and keep them in the lockers at the entrance. We gave our passports, made payment and then led to our room immediately, which was a couple floors up by elevator.
A thing to note that we had to arrive at the ryokan by 6pm latest, or else dinner would not be served – regardless of whether we paid or not. If you do anticipate that you’ll arrive later than 6pm, let them know at least a day in advance.
Our room is tatami mat-style and minimalistic. In the day time, we have a living room situation, much like a traditional Japanese home. While we were at dinner, they did turn down service and set up the futon beds. The futons were so soft and comfortable, and with weighted blankets. the pillows provided are these sturdy bean-filled pillows. I like a lot support on my head pillows so I slept incredibly well.
We have an en-suite bathroom which consists of an in-room onsen (glorious) with a traditional shower corner. The toiletries provided are premier brands, Kose Sekkisei skincare products.
We also had yukatas in the room – which I changed into as soon as I showered and took a quick dunk in the in-room onsen – which lets us really have a feel of a traditional ryokan experience. I ended up wearing the yukata throughout my stay, even to bed.
We picked Yukimurasaki mainly because it had private onsens. As a bonus, this onsen is outdoors. Onsen under the stars, surrounded by mountains? Yes please.
Unlike most ryokans, Yukimurasaki do not have public baths. There are two private onsens available. One was rock-themed, the other was bamboo-themed. I tried the rock-themed one, and intended to try the bamboo onsen the next morning… but I chose to sleep in, oops.
You do need to reserve the spots by writing your room number on the list in reception. The baths are also open till late so even if it’s a full house, you shouldn’t have an issue getting a dip in during your stay.
Onsens are typically natural hot springs. According to the website, the water at Yukimurasaki is “alkaline simple spring”. It’s supposedly “effective for sensitivity to cold, beautiful skin, rheumatism, and neuralgia”. I don’t know about the rest, but I can attest to the beautiful skin part. My skin has never felt so soft after.
My onsen experience was incredibly interesting and therapeutic. I felt like I could zone out in there for a long while, just contemplating life and whatnot.
Most ryokans would include board in the room price. Having a traditional multi-course meal is also an obligatory part of the ryokan experience.
Traditionally ryokans served food in the room. However, at Yukimurasaki, you’ll have to get to the dining area, where you have a designated private room. When we arrived, they’ve prepared our starters alongside a menu with our names on. I didn’t have an issue with this. In fact, I thought it was a better arrangement, since they were able to do turn down service in our room while we had dinner.
Our stay included an ultra luxurious 10-course Kaiseki (multi-course meal) dinner which has A5 Hida Beef as a main course. It was my first taste of Hida Beef, and it couldn’t have gone more splendidly. We each had about four tiny slivers of the Hida Beef, which we grilled to our own preferred done-ness, and savoured each piece like it was the last meals of our lives.
A5 meant that this is the highest grade of beef on the market – so we are lapping up beefy luxury bestowed upon us by Yukimurasaki. I bit into beefy fatty goodness and let the delicious meaty taste permeate through my mouth. It was fatty throughout and I could barely detect a hint of lean meat. It was a true melt-in-the-mouth beef experience.
The sashimi was amazingly fresh as well, and I enjoyed the dessert platter. A Yukimurasaki specialty is the riverfish, grilled in-house. The other dishes were good, but served as filler dishes to not take away from the main star: The A5 Hida beef.
Breakfast has a lot less courses than dinner, but it was a good spread as well. Traditional Japanese-styled breakfast consisting of little dishes of clean tastes such as tofu soup, miso, rice and vegetables. The breakfast course came with green tea. I need my coffee, so we ordered one at an additional cost.
I think by now you can tell that I ABSOLUTELY loved my ryokan stay. It was only for a night and I wished we had an extra night there. I would have loved to soak in the other onsen.
Yukimurasaki is also close to the Shinhotaka Ropeway, which was our destination the next day.