TAKINOYA, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN
why stay here?
● Private spring-fed onsen
● Clackety traditional slippers or ‘geta’ for your feet & multiple types of luxe yakata
● Extravagant kaiseki
● Warm and attentive service
feel & design
A disappointingly drab concrete block beckons as you drive in, which threw us off slightly. However, as soon as you pop out of your car, the Takinoya experience begins. The gentle tapping sound of the geta clad staff on tatami as they go about their business, lends itself well to the hallowed feel inside, with soft light, the sounds of running water streaming in from the extensive windows, and nooks strewn around begging for a contemplative sit. To the particular eye, the property is getting a little shabby around the edges from its years of hospitality, but everything is elegant and peaceful in its simplicity. The smell of sulfur is a given in the whole town of Noboribetsu due to the springs, so we suggest getting used to it.
Takinoya offers both tatami (Japanese style) as well as “Western” rooms. We chose a tatami room to make the most of our visit to this part of Hokkaido and absorb the traditional ryokan experience. Picture your own little home away from home with low seats, and traditional Japanese prints. A mattress with high quality linen and other accoutrements is unfurled for you upon the room’s tatami floors daily. The first night or two are great fun thanks to the novelty (to us) of the sleeping arrangements, but if you’re accustomed to raised western beds, some discomfort may creep in. The suite is designed for complete privacy. Its dining area has an inconspicuous pantry door on one end, from which, like clockwork, your lovely personal butler will pop out at pre-approved times to lay out meals or restock the matcha, water, and creatively flavoured crunchy snacks. In our particular opinion, the snacks should have been house-made and need not have been wrapped in plastic, and water should have been provided in glass bottles instead of the ubiquitous plastic. The art on the walls is unremarkable and a missed opportunity to impress guests. We’d advise this otherwise delightful ryokan to upgrade its variegated textiles (chairs, runners, shades, cushions) which have served their years from all appearances. The bathroom is designed with a view to conveniently slipping in and out of the private onsen right outside. The onsen is one of the main reasons to stay here: shaded by a slatted roof, with a green fenced in yard to make it completely private, it’s a deep sunken tub with hot spring water flowing through it. We came away wanting better bath products, but appreciated the refillable containers.
Breakfast and dinner are included in your stay (and yes, the prices reflect that). Your personal butler will ask you your preferences for breakfast for the following morning - both Japanese and “Western” style breakfasts are available, and abundant. For dinner, you can specify meat and fish preferences (and if you’re a vegetarian or more particular, I suggest letting the ryokan know before your arrival). The chefs serve up the most astonishing flow of kaiseki plated in colourful tableware each evening. From sakizuki (appetizers) all the way through to the dessert, each dish is thoughtfully prepared and exquisitely plated. The standouts were the fresh kani or crab, which Hokkaido is known for, and the mildly sweet strawberry based dessert that appeared one night. Tempura focused dinners or a shabu shabu can be arranged if you’re tired of the kaiseki. You’ll have to fend for yourself for lunch; we suggest walking two streets over to a strictly mediocre, but cosy soba spot for simple bowls of yam and spring onion topped soba if you aren’t keen to drive out of Noboribetsu. There is also a 7-11 at walking distance, which is anything but pedestrian (to a person who lives outside Japan at any rate) with some quirky Japanese products such as matcha flavoured pancakes and scallop flavoured Hokkaido potato crisps.
● Private onsen in some suites, fed directly from the sulfur springs in Jigokudani
● Public onsen, both male and female
● Valet parking
● Gift shop for omiyage or souvenirs, which could have stocked more luxe and unique products instead of the somewhat tacky fare
Responsive and discreet
Jigokudani ‘hell valley’ through which you can saunter as you marvel at the angry earth belching up dangerous looking steam. There are several picturesque walks and hikes in the environs.
Lake Toya, where among other things, you can go riding.
how do you get here?
Fly to New Chitose airport which services the Sapporo area on Hokkaido. Rent a car there and drive a little over an hour to Noboribetsu. You’ll know you’ve arrived when the smell of sulfur hits your nostrils.