No matter what, I have to squeeze in a ryokan with a hot spring whenever I am in Japan during their winter time, and I didn’t expect everywhere that I wanted to go to be fully booked up when I started looking around for options sometime in August. Yes, so I have warned you, if you do decide to go ryokan and hot spring hopping in end December to January, I have news for you – it’s one of their peak periods which means book very early plus everywhere be pricier.
After much research, I decided to try Kotohira Kadan, located in a small town called Kotohira in the Kagawa Prefecture. It seemed the ‘closest’ to Osaka (and by that I mean a crazy 3 hour plus car ride) and decent looking one by our standards (checked my checklist which includes: nice decent looking rooms, decent kaiseki meal served in room, interesting quaintness, clean).
After we rented our car from our favourite and very reliable Nissan RentACar, R started the drive towards the ryokan, with some key stops near the famous Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and checking out some delicious local Awaji food.
Here’s some quick snap shots of what we got up to during the 3 hours car ride.
Listening to one of my favourite singers – Eason Chan while going over the famous Akashi Kaikyo Bridge which is the world’s longest suspension bridge at almost four kilometers.
You can take a quick rest stop, accessible shortly after leaving the bridge. There’s something magical about ferris wheels!
Yes, talking about food, Awaji Island is famous for their onions, and be sure to stop by any of the rest stops you pass by to grab some of their local produce if you love onions like me – onion salad dressing, onion jam, even onion chips. Y and I insisted to R we wanted to stop by to try the famous Awajishima Burger made all with homemade onion rings, fresh beef and organic vegetables are all grown on Awaji Island. It was an interesting one, but I didn’t think it was that good as per all the online local reviews, but you can try if you ever get here.
At one of the branches of Awajishima Burger.
Can’t wait to devour the burger and the onion rings.
After stuffing our faces with burger and their delicious onion rings, R drove like an F1 driver to Kotohira Kadan and we got there in about 2 hours plus, and arrived around 4 pm in the afternoon.
Views of the beautiful sunset.
As we drove in and arrived at the ryokan, we noticed this town was pretty small, and the nearby sights like the famous Kotohiragu shrine and other small shops were all to be accessed totally on foot. We decided it was best to just relax and enjoy the room for this one night only, as we were pretty tired from the long drive.
Main entrance and check in area of Kotohira Kadan.
According to the ryokan website, their traditional ryokan with modern rooms has a 400 year old history. They count famous Japanese writers and poets of the past, such as Ogai Mori, Hakushu Kitahara, and Akiko Yosano to have stayed at their lodging before. The ryokan has their 40 guest rooms housed in the main building which takes on a more modern exterior in terms of architecture, and 3 traditional sukiya style houses that sit amongst their Japanese gardens. I like history, but sometimes I am also scared of the unknown things that can be lurking around with such ancient buildings, but Y and I told ourselves not to overthink things. R just thought we were crazy paranoid.
One of the sukiya style houses.
Once we arrived, the check in was super fast and we were ushered up by a lady through the external lift to the bar lounge where we were served some refreshments, while our bags were taken up to our room. She then took us through the hotel and explained the facilities that were available in the main building such as computer, a game room and a spa with massages, and the public baths plus private baths that can be reserved for 45 minutes, good think we had also reserved a time slot just before dinner. I even spotted a hot foot bath along the balcony corridor, a good spot to relief our tired feet without having to walk all the way to the public bathhouse.
Enjoying our refreshments in the lounge.
Given that we were only going to stay here for 1 night, I made the call to just go all the way and stay in the Choiseden room, which I feel is the best way to really enjoy a bit of their history as well and understand how Japanese used to live in these classic homes full of history. Even the other rooms are pretty decent, there are choices of Japanese style or Western style rooms, the difference being the bedding type, because not everyone can be used to sleeping in the futon bed. Some rooms also have the private hot spring bath for those that are shy like R to go to the public ones, and are equipped with modern facilities such as shower, toilet, TV, free wi fi, coffee and tea makers.
Being shown the way to our villa!
Finally we are here!
We couldn’t wait to explore the large house that was ours for the night. The Choiseden room is a really large generous suite – with 18 mat tatami size room (yes all ryokans measure their size by tatamis) with one side of the house overlooking the town and tile roofed villas, given its higher location in respect to the main hotel building.
Long corridor leading to the main room.
Seating by the balcony area.
I could almost feel how the Japanese lords and painters used to live here, as I felt myself stepping back in time looking at the period paintings on the walls, hanging scrolls, and other small traditional household items like the shodo (calligraphy) and chado (tea ceremony) boxes. What was really impressive was the toilet – they had 2 rooms for toilets, one for squatting and one a modern toilet bowl, separate from the shower area and the private hot bath area.
Some of the historic elements in our room.
Enjoying the matcha tea and snack upon arrival.
Time flew past quickly and it was time to check out the private bath that we had booked. Here, the naturally alkaline hot spring water drawn from the local town spring waters, was such a soothing relief to our aching muscles built up from all the walking and skiing the whole trip. The private hot bath was separated from a lounge area with a toilet and cosy chairs to relax in if we wanted to, but we spent almost the whole 45 mins jumping in and out of the private rotemburo bath.
Private bath booked and couldn’t resist also dipping in the foot bath on the way to the onsen.
Once the night falls, the ryokan grounds has a nice mysterious and zen like quality to it, especially in the gardens. We couldn’t help but admire the surroundings before making our way back to our ryokan for our kaiseki dinner awaiting us.
Our dinner kaiseki meal comprised of 8 courses. I won’t say the meal is ground breakingly amazing, but it was a decent kaiseki meal, with a good mix of sashimi, beef and fish.
We spent our nights watching Toy Story 2 and 3 again on DVD before went to sleep. Yes they have DVDs to borrow, but limited movies if we wanted those with English subtitles, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching my favourite all time cartoon again with Y and R. Their futon bed was pretty snuggy I have to admit, and it was one of the more comfy futons we have relaxed in out of all the ryokan stays we have been to.
The morning went by quickly and we had our traditional Japanese breakfast served, and we gobbled it up so that we could take one good soak in our private bath and say sayonara to the kind hosts at Kotohira Kadan.
Breakfast in bed. Rise and Shine.
Last dip in our private bath before the ride back to Osaka.
My verdict of Kotohira Kadan is I may not come here again, and maybe as I have experienced Takefue Ryokan, it’s really hard to find another ryokan that can top Takefue (see my review) especially when it comes to this price tag zone of close to 50,000 yen per head a night, the ryokan for me needs to really wow me, and I feel Kotohira is decent, but it isn’t wow. Still then, it’s an experience, and I am glad I sort of explored this part of Japan in a whirlwind manner with Y and R.
1241-5, Kotohira, Nakatado District, Kagawa Prefecture 766-0001, Japan
Tel: +81 877-75-3232
We paid JPY45,360 per person for the Choiseden room (premium room) for one night including full course Japanese ‘Kaiseki’ dinner, breakfast, service charge and VAT.
Access: Ryokan is a 15-minute walk from JR Kotohira Station.
Information below from www.jnto.go.jp on how to get to the town of Kotohira:
From Tokyo :
[Air] 1h 20 min from Haneda to Takamatsu Airport, and 45 min by bus from the airport to Kotohira.
[Rail] 3h 20 min from Tokyo to Okayama Station by JR Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen Line, and 1h from Okayama to Kotohira Station by JR Seto-ohashi Line (limited express).
From Osaka :
[Rail] 40 min from Shin-Osaka to Okayama Station by Shinkansen, followed by a 1h ride from Okayama to Kotohira Station by JR Seto-ohashi Line (limited express).
Or just be gungho like us and drive all the way from Osaka, where you can explore interesting sights along the way like the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge!