The Honjin Hiranoya Annex an upscale ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel) is very Western friendly. The staff speaks good English, they take care of your car and they offer English explanations of the Japanese breakfasts and dinners. If you want to try a ryokan but are not sure about an all Japanese setting, this is a good place to get your feet wet.
Our upgraded room was a spacious ryokan style room with comfy lounge chairs, a rarity in Japan, overlooking the river. The room included all the usual amenities – bath products, water boiler, but no coffee. While there is a bath in the room we went to the public bath.
The outdoor rooftop men’s bath has views overlooking the city. The women’s bath is located in an old style building next door, a quaint intimate structure with just five seated shower stations in the washing area. The stone soaking pool, however, is in an elegant high-ceilinged room with carved wooden beams. There were very few guests on a Friday afternoon at around five. It was a little difficult to find as it is next door to the hotel annex past the souvenir shop without any markings in English.
The in room kaiseki traditional dinner was quite good. An English menu is provided and the server, having spent some time working in the U.S., also spoke good English.
Service started with a selection of appetizers and some other side dishes including a tofu dish, steamed vegetables and a clear soup.
The sashimi selection was very fresh.
The main event was the local Hida beef steak grilled table side with mushrooms and asparagus. Three tasty cuts of meat with varying degrees of marbling.
A small fish course with sea bream and vegetables followed by mushroom rice and miso soup.
For dessert – sweet potato pudding, pear and kyoho grapes.
After the dinner dishes were cleared they came and quickly prepared our futon bed for the evening.
Breakfast is served in a large busy dining room on the second floor. At check-in we were asked to choose the time we wanted breakfast 7, 7:30 or 8 and whether we wanted a Japanese or Western breakfast. We chose one of each for comparison sake.
Upon your arrival the breakfasts are laid out in the dining room at your designated table. The Japanese breakfast comes with an instructional coversheet explaining the different items which included a pretty typical Japanese spread – fish, cooked and pickled vegetables, tofu, rice, etc. One novelty is that you cook your fish at the table.
The Western breakfast, an interesting Japanese interpretation, included – a green salad and vegetables, i.e., cabbage, carrots and potatoes steamed at your table. Made to order scrambled eggs and breakfast meats are served fresh hot along with cinnamon rolls and croissants. Nothing particularly good although I do like the way they cook eggs in Japan, French style, i.e., a little more runny than in the States. Only the Western breakfast comes with coffee but you can go to the coffee station and get yourself a cup if you order the Japanese breakfast. If you like Japanese breakfast it’s the better quality of the two.
Driving to Takayama
From the Kamikochi Ankandana parking it was an easy 45 minute drive into town. Honjin Hiranoya Annex located in the center of town was not so obvious to find on the street. When I got out of the car to on foot I was immediately greeted by hotel staff who directed us to the hotel where they instructed us to park in front of the hotel. They unloaded the luggage and took care of the car. Such service!
Check-in, however, wasn’t until 3pm. Even at 2:30 we either needed to wait in the lounge or could leave the luggage and walk around town. We chose the latter.
Heading out of Town
We picked up the car from the hotel at just before 1:00 and headed to Kanazawa on the expressway. While a fast drive without much traffic this is not the way to go if you actually want to see the mountains.
The expressway links one tunnel after another with only brief views of the mountains. We had driven through the mountains on 156 two days earlier and it’s a pretty drive – worth the time if you have it. Also it’s a chance to see the Gossho-zukuri villages.
September 29-October 1, 2017
For sights in Takayama see the previous post.
For links to all the posts in this series see the Japan page.