By Tinka Weener
Set in the rural town of Kinosaki Onsen in Hyogo's northern Tajima area, Nishimuraya Honkan stands out as a traditional and luxurious ryokan. Nishimuraya Honkan treats its guests to an unforgettable experience with the combination of Japanese supreme hospitality and first class quality lodging and cuisine. The ryokan has won numerous awards and continues to impress from the quality of the rooms to the seasonal courses including Matsuba crab and Tajima beef specialties.
To first understand Nishimuraya Honkan, you need to understand Kinosaki Onsen. Kinosaki Onsen is a hot spring town built entirely around the needs of tourists. The appeal pervades through the entire area which is setup similar to the atmosphere of a gigantic Japanese ryokan lodging. The station mimics the entrance of a ryokan, the roads the lantern lit hallways, the public hot springs the baths and the ryokans themselves act as the guest rooms. Everywhere you go, people are dressed in yukata and geta sandals similar to the halls inside a ryokan. The atmosphere is warm and friendly throughout the city, with traditional entertainment and snack options abundant as you stroll along the streets. The streets are lined with mulitiple hot springs and I recommend trying the Ichino-Yu at least once during your stay. Depending on the time of arrival, there are numerous events, festivals and exhibitions to choose from. The outdoor scenery will impress throughout all four seasons.
As for Nishimuraya Honkan, this polished hot spring hotel is in its seventh generation of ownership. Constructed in Japanese traditional wood buildings and surrounded by walls and trees, it stands out as one of the finest lodgings in the area and even in all of Kansai. The maze-like layout lends a sense of privacy, the two onsen bath areas are exquisite, most rooms have a view of Japanese gardens, and there's a quaint gallery of art and historical artifacts. Seasonal kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine) meals are the final touch. Other notable areas within the ryokan walls, include a lounge area with a view of the main garden and a karaoke room.
There are a variety of room types available each with all the amenities you would expect from a luxury ryokan. All the guest rooms are Japanese-style with a fridge, tea set & hot water pot and a safe box. The walk-in powder room has large mirrors and many amenities (lotions, dryers, etc.). The toilet is in a small separate room and most rooms also provide a bathroom with tub & shower (a small handful of rooms with private outdoor baths do not have the separate bathroom). Sliding paper doors open into a tatami floor guest room itself, which also acts as the dining room. The guest room contains Japanese-style floor chairs and table for dining and lounging. Rooms also have a separate side area with secondary seating for reading, relaxation and enjoying the outside view. Our second floor room had large windows with a very private and beautiful view of the garden below. The rooms have free Wi-Fi, television, humidifiers and more available on request. There are a few special rooms with private open-air baths, private gardens or other luxurious features. Best of all each room will come with a set of high quality yukata, tabi socks, and over garments that, when paired with the geta sandals at the entrance, are perfect for strolling the town in style.
For rates which include breakfast and dinner, the meals can be served in-room or for larger groups in a separate private dining area. In-room dining is a highly recommended option as you can relax on the tatami flooring while all of the food is served right in front of you. The courses can not be described adequately in text, but culinary perfection comes close. The head chef of Nishimuraya, Etsunobu Takahashi, has a long and famed career in traditional Japanese cuisine. If you agree with me that the center of any stay at a ryokan is the food, you will not be disappointed in the slightest with Nishimuraya. The kaiseki (course) dinners include a variety of Japanese foods presented in artistic fashion. Tajima beef, the origin of modern day Kobe beef, is the highlight, but as Tajima also borders the sea, fresh seafood from the Sea of Japan can also be enjoyed. If you are lucky enough to visit between November 7th and March 31st try the Matsuba crab, a delicious snow crab local to the region, and don't forget to try the Matsuba crab sake. There are a variety of dinner plans available, but you really can’t go wrong with anything. Breakfast is traditional Japanese-style breakfast. The experience is further enhanced as a kimono-clad server (English speaking available), lays out each item, describing the foods before you partake. There is nothing more relaxing than enjoying dish after dish of wonderfully delicious Japanese food after an evening at the hot springs. Your time in Japan could not be better spent!
Official Website (English)
Explore the area
For more to do in the Tajima area, check out our companion article here.
Nishimuraya Honkan is located about a fifteen to twenty minute walk from Kinosaki Station in the town of Kinosaki Onsen.
From Kyoto or Osaka, there are express trains to Kinosaki almost every hour with a ride duration of just over two and a half hours. For a memorable experience of landing in the scenic Tajima airport, there are also two round trip flights from Osaka International Airport and Tajima airport per day. The flight duration is around 40 minutes.
From Tokyo, you can fly from Haneda airport to Tajima airport with a transfer at Osaka Int. airport. The whole journey from Haneda airport to Tajima airport takes about two hours. A Taxi ride from Tajima airport to Kinosaki Onsen takes about 30 minutes.
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