Yes undoubtedly, a stay at Myojinkan will not be inexpensive. It was comparable to having a night's stay at the Park Hyatt at Tokyo or other glitzy five/six stars hotel in NY or London. However, going on a holiday in Japan, and if able to afford it, a night's stay at a ryokan, especially an onsen one, is a must.
In my holiday to Japan in December 2010 - January 2011, we had two night's stay at two vastly different onsen ryokans. Myojinkan was way superior (the other was so bad it was probably the worst stay in a hotel I ever had - even worse than some hostels I used to stay when I was younger).
First, I made my booking many months in advance, as the Christmas/New Year period in japan is a popular time for many locals to go on holidays, especially to onsen ryokans. I wanted a room with a private wooden onsen, but those were already booked (in July 2010!!), so I had to stretch my budget a bit to get a night's stay in a much larger room with a stone onsen set in the ground level, overlooking a river with views of the woods - mostly snow capped. It was expensive, but a treat - about Y80,000 for two persons for a night, including breakfast and dinner. (We booked through Luxury Ryokan, and the service/email exchanges were also top notch - very accommodating, very quick replies).
Let's start with the service: you meet at Matsumoto train station at either 3pm or later, and there will be coaches to ferry you to Myojinkan (up in the mountains!), a 30 minute ride away. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a lovely Japanese woman who spoke good English - and this was despite the fact that there were many other guests arriving at the same time - EVERY guest was greeted and either whisked away to be checked in in their rooms or at the lobby.
We were served tea/coffee, did the paper work, and shown around the ryokan - the various hotel onsens, and then to our room. The room was VERY, very large, and all the more incredible given that we were in Japan and space is a premium. It wasn't new - the corridors, the carpet and some furniture were showing signs of wear and tear, but, it was immaculately tidied, clean and beautiful. The lighting in the entire ryokan was very low-key, glowy, and romantic. The beds (we could not get the Japanese futon room) were very comfortable and we slept very well. Sound proofing was good.
The bathroom was very well stocked! It led out to the terrace, which had the onsen with steam curling up over it, and patches of snow just beyond the onsen. It was truly wonderful - the highlight of our holiday. It was very cold, (-4 degrees C), so the onsen was even better that way (not too hot, but definitely warm!). The view was amazing - bare trees but snow all around, and you could only hear the gushing of the river down below (couldn't see it from the onsen but if you walked to the edge you could). It was a magical and intensely relaxing experience to soak in the onsen and enjoy the surroundings. At night, there were stars overhead.. it was just wonderful.
There was very good coffee available in the room, and even better, VERY high quality green tea leaves and some Chinese tea. The biscuit they provided in the room - there were two - something red bean - was so damn good, that I kept looking for the same biscuit when I was in Tokyo but was extremely disappointed I could not find the biscuit ever again!
At night, after dinner, they turned down the room and provided a pretty box of rice 'cakes' just in case we got hungry - not that it would be possible after the delicious and filling dinner!
Now, the onsens - there are TWO of each type of onsen, the standing one, the lying down one etc, one for men and other for women. I was initially confused - I thought each onsen had certain timings made available for men and women (as was usually the case for most onsens or onsen ryokans), but at Myojinkan, they literally had two of each! And the best thing was, they were made available the entire evening, so you could even use it at 3am if you so wish.
The whole communal bathing thing unnerved me a little, but I did not think too much about it and did what the locals did. Once scrubbed and cleaned, I stepped into the onsens and they were all fantastic. The standing one - which had a view framed by the large rectangular architecture - was amazing. Beautiful and breathtaking. The lying down one was also superb. Nothing quite beats the experience of being kept warm by water from deep in the earth while you feel the cold air stinging your cheeks, and having a view to admire and only the sound of a gushing river.
Now for dinner. I am a foodie, through and through. I know what good food is, from a bowl of US$2 noodles in SE Asia to michelin starred restaurant food. The kaiseki dinner (you could choose between Japanese modern, French, or kaiseki) we had was truly spectacular. We were shown and led to a private room, sat on the floor (on chairs). The room had gorgeously designed doors - laquer? I can still remember it vividly. And then the food - there were about 10+ courses, each course better than the next, tastefully, very carefully thought about and prepared, and exquisitely presented in bowls. My partner said he had the best beef in his life during the dinner, while I enjoyed the clear soups (could taste the hint of charcoal used to boil the soup, and yet it was rich but very clean tasting at the same time), the rice (the very best rice from Niigata) (it was so delicious, I could have very very happily had that plain rice for dinner and be satisfied), an egg dish, the fruits, and of course, the really good sashimi. While drinks had to be paid in extra, we had a bottle of sake and that was enough (and not too expensive). The staff somehow knew I was on my honeymoon and at the end of the dinner, took a picture of us, and when we checked out the next day, presented us the picture! What a wonderful gesture, very very thoughtful. Also, I had a very specific dietary restriction, and the staff were very conscious about it and made sure not one bit of the food was used in the kaiseki dinner, not even for soup stock. It was the details that they paid attention to, and which I was duly impressed by.
Breakfast the next day was at a different location, and we had a table next to the glass windows overlooking the river and snow capped mountains and trees. We had Japanese breakfast, and again, it was delicious, very clean tasting food, well prepared, and well thought of. Again, the rice was so good, I could have ten bowls if I could only eat that much!
There is a study/library at the ryokan, and there was an apple computer you could serve the internet with (for free of course). We were also somehow given access to the club lounge (or something like that), where we could have sake, champagne or many other alcohol beverages for free (served to us by the very friendly waitress). There was also food - good ones - like cheese, fruits, which we could help ourselves to. The lounge was tastefully decorated, if a little unnerving to walk into as there are many other Japanese guests there.
Check out the next day at 10sih was smooth, and we took the 11am bus back to Matsumoto. If I live/work in Tokyo, I would definiteily return to Myojinkan as often as I could and afford to! It certainly whetted our appetite for more luxury ryokans in the future.
The only drawbacks were this: after relaxing soaks in onsen and the cold weather, I felt soooo sleepy I could not concentrate on the kaiseki dinner as I usually would for food! Still, it was so good it made a deep impression. Also, the other guests at Myojinkan are mostly Japanese - most of them, I presume, to be upper class and rather wealthy, so they may be a tad snooty, but that is no fault of the hotel. I had the distinct impression that the other guests were not too happy that there were gaijins around... and we even met the most insecure gaijin couple there ever, boasting about the number of times they've stayed at myojinkan! hilarious! The ryokan was also showing its age - it is not a new one - but, to its credit, was always kept clean and tidy.
Bravo, and definitely worth the cost. This is a true, real Japanese ryokan, not the tourist-trap, kitschy, disgusting sort like Kokuya Ryokan at Shibu Onsen!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.