Yoshino Yukawaya Review: just like you are coming home

One of my favorite places in Japan is Mt. Yoshino. I have already written about why you should visit there, even more than Kyoto. Now I am going to share my favorite ryokan (inn) in Yoshino as well.

Most people know about Japanese traditional ryokans where you sleep on tatami mats and futons, but I actually prefer beds. I’ve been sleeping in a bed since I was a child, so I prefer it to a futon. Well, my friends who know me well say, ‘Because you’re just lazy, SAKURA.’

In Japan, if you are sleeping on a futon, you have to put it back in the closet every morning, and then, of course, you have to put it down again to sleep. So yes, it’s true, I just don’t want to do it every single day!

But it’s a different story if you have someone to do it, hahaha. And if you have excellent, yummy food served to you, then it’s totally okay! Let me introduce my favorite Ryokan in Japan here.

‘Yoshinosou Yukawaya’ is the place to stay and enjoy their food and warm hospitality.

Ryokan Where You Feel Like You’re Coming Home

When I book hotels or ryokans in Japan, I usually use a Japanese online hotel reservation called ‘Jaran.’ On this website, when you purchase hotel bookings, you can earn points that you can use for your next booking – a good system for attracting regular customers, hey?

When I searched for a room using ‘Jaran,’ Yukawaya Ryokan appeared as the popular No.1 choice in the Yoshino area.

However, the first time I planned to go to Yoshino, I actually booked a different ryokan just because I liked the onsen bath photo. During the trip, my friend had really bad allergies to crustaceans such as shrimp, crabs, and some fish.

She mentioned that if she ate any of these, she would likely suffer from terrible symptoms such as vomiting and hives. So, I decided to contact the hotels and restaurants in advance to make sure they would not serve any of these allergens.

When I called the ryokan that I had booked only for the bath photo to explain my friend’s allergies, the person who answered my call was surprisingly rude. Normally, Japanese hospitality is quite well-mannered and polite, but he didn’t seem to understand or care at all – very unprofessional. I was actually quite upset by that, so I cancelled.

Okay, I had to look for another place. This time, before making a reservation, I checked the reviews. I used the criteria tool for ranking reviews, and ‘Jaran’ showed “Yoshinoso Yukawaya” at the top of the search results.

After booking the room, I made an international call to ensure that they wouldn’t serve these allergens. The first person to answer the phone was probably one of the workers, and she quickly and politely transferred the call to the landlady (Okami).

I told her about all my friend’s allergies and the Japanese names of the ingredients, and she said, “Okay, no problem. We’ve got all the information here. We are very much looking forward to meeting you.”

It was delightful to chat with her; the softness of her manner, her hearty laugh at my joke over the phone – I was really looking forward to meeting her.

One of The Oldest Ryokans With Great Customer Service

In fact, Yukawaya Ryokan is the oldest traditional inn in Yoshino, with a history spanning over 720 years. Mr. Yamamoto, the managing director (Okami’s husband), is the 16th owner. Currently, he serves as a Yoshino Town Council member and is not actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the ryokan. His son has taken over as the 17th owner, known as the ‘wakadanna’ (young owner).

For more information, please refer to Yukawaya’s website.

Yoshino, as the Shugendo sect of ascetic Buddhism became increasingly active and influential, received attention largely in association with En no Gyoja(7th c.to 8th c.), who is believed to have been the founder of Shugendo. Our inn has been living with the statue of En no Gyoja for about seven hundred twenty years.

From; Yoshino-so Yukawaya website

Of course, the Yukawaya staff knows Yoshino very well (no need to mention, hey). Mr. Yamamoto, the Director, spread out the Yoshino mountain map on the lobby table and then explained some tips and directions to us on where to go and what to do.

There is also a package for the night service at Kimpusen-ji Temple, and we participated in this package with tickets twice with my husband and my Australian friend.

For this package, the night service at the temple, Mr. Yamamoto advised us to “Go down there half an hour early, and you will be able to sit in front; that’s the best position, okay!?”

Additionally, both Mr. and Mrs. Yamamoto, the couple who run the ryokan, always asked us what we were planning to do the next day and then suggested things like:

“If you are going on a hike tomorrow, would you like us to make lunch for you? Up the mountain, there’s no place to eat lunch though.” (Of course, it’s not free!)

Guest Rooms Are Clean, Spacious And Newly Renovated Baths

As you can imagine, traditional Japanese ryokans mostly have rooms with tatami mats. Personally, I don’t really like tatami mats because if you live in a humid house, you could encounter health problems such as mold. Of course, in most good ryokans, there are no worries, especially this ryokan’s cleaning is excellent! You can enjoy the fragrance of new tatami, which is very nostalgic for my childhood memories.

They also renovated in 2020, adding rooms with beds and extra shared onsen bath rooms. Typically, most ryokans only have shared baths, separated for use by both men and women.

The Meals’ Local Ingredients Are So Delicious!

When I was researching this ryokan before booking, there were many good reviews on Jaran. One of the top reviews was about Yukawaya’s meals, both dinner and breakfast. In most Japanese ryokans, the package includes dinner and breakfast, but not lunch.

When I was living in Japan, I used to go on local holidays with my parents or friends. Unfortunately, I never came across meals as good as Yukawaya’s. Don’t get me wrong, they were good, but I wasn’t impressed.

I think Yukawaya’s chef is very creative; the food isn’t your ordinary countryside fare. I enjoyed the taste, and the presentation is quite unique. If you stay for more than one night, you can experience a bit of variety each night.

At most Japanese ryokans, dinner is served in your own guest room. If you have a large group, you may be directed to a party room, but typically, dinner is enjoyed in your own space. There were more photos, but I apologize for not having any more; I was too busy enjoying the delicious food and completely forgot to take more photos!

And now, let’s talk about breakfast! I love Yukawaya’s breakfast.

Yukawaya’s breakfast was served not in our guest room, you have to go to the dining hall.

Once again, breakfast was brilliant! Usually, I don’t eat much for breakfast, just a toast with jam or a slice of tomato with pepper.

However, the ryokan’s Japanese-style breakfast is a sensational pleasure. There are so many different dishes in front of you!

One of the highlights is the famous Nara tea porridge. It’s rice porridge cooked in Japanese hojicha tea. It’s quite refreshing, and I really enjoyed it too.

Well, I hadn’t changed my clothes; we simply went down the hall wearing Yukata kimono, which is like pajamas in Japanese ryokan. When I was a child, everyone wore these Yukata kimono and put on the kimono jacket to go out or wander around everywhere. I realised that no one wears them anymore in public. The other Japanese guests in Yukawaya’s dining hall looked at us strangely. My husband and I were the only ones wearing Japanese pajamas there for breakfast.

So, it’s best not to wear the Yukata kimono and jacket in public anymore!

In Yukawaya’s breakfast set, there was dried river-fish, Ayu, which was my favorite fish. You could place it on the roasting kit set on the table; it was so yummy! I vividly remembered this dish from the first time, so I was actually looking forward to having this dried Ayu. For the last two times I stayed, I thought, ‘Oh, there’s dried river-fish Ayu tomorrow morning. YES!!’ I was excited!

When I stayed there with my husband, I knew he didn’t like river-fish much, so I expected he would give his dried Ayu to me.

He asked me, looking at the dried Ayu dish, ‘What do you do with this? Are you roasting it? Okay, wow, that’s delicious!’ That’s it. He ate it all…

I said to him, ‘I’m glad you like it a lot’.

Yukawaya Is Like Coming Home To Me

There are many reasons why I like Yukawaya so much, but the top three are the people, the food, and the comfortable atmosphere that feels like coming back home. I always sleep very well there, and the staff make me feel incredibly comfortable. The last time I visited, I went with my best friend, whom I’ve known for more than 30 years and who is my favorite travel buddy (apart from my husband).

Before I left Australia, there was a typhoon that caused damage to the connecting bridge at Kansai International Airport. I was really worried that my flight would be redirected to Narita Airport. However, everything was fixed, and I flew from Sydney to Kansai Airport. Unfortunately, there was another typhoon approaching the Kansai area as I was heading back to Sydney.

The Kansai airport was closed in advance, and my flight was canceled. We decided to go back to Kyoto and stay there for one more night. Okamisan, the landlady of Yukawaya, was so worried about me.

During breakfast, Okamisan asked me,

‘So, SAKURA, are you staying in Kyoto?’ My best friend replied on my behalf, ‘Yes, I’ve decided to stay with SAKURA, don’t you worry!’ Okami-san replied, ‘Oh, really!? You are going to stay with her, that’s so good!! hahahahaha (laughing)’.

She looked so relieved that my friend was coming with me. I asked her, ‘Uh… Okami-san, what does that mean, “That’s good, ho ho ho ho”? Am I so unreliable?’ We all laughed a lot, probably laughing at me… I really love her laugh.

Anyway, I really love Yukawaya! During our conversation, we realised that we were the same age as Okami-san, just one or two years apart, which is why we got along so well.

I miss them so much. I will definitely visit again on my next trip to Japan! I’ll probably take my husband and my younger son with me. And again, I’ll say to them, ‘I’m home.’

I’m sure both Okami-san and the manager (her husband) will say, ‘Welcome home!’ I can’t wait to see them again.”

I found the young owner, Wakadanna’s YouTube channel. You can watch it rather than just looking at photos.

Our inn is a Japanese-style inn built in wooden Yoshino style, using local materials from Yoshino, with the motto of ‘a warm inn’.

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