Not being a fan of B & B's, it was almost a last resort to take this place due to the exorbitant prices charged by most hotels in Kusatsu. But I was determined we should stay there as it was such a popular tourist destination, particularly by Japanese, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
We booked through Rakuten on the internet and it seemed to be amazing value. 18900 yen for 2 people including dinner and breakfast.
We were met by the owner on arrival, a very nice man who spoke some English, but I suspect a whole lot more French, and of course Japanese.
The room was compact but very comfortable. Two single beds, a small table and chair and our own toilet and basin in a small room within our room. There was a beautiful view across to a park from one window and to a vegetable garden from the other. It was clean, neat a really comfortable. Sweets and tea were there for us on arrival, and there was a community fridge in the corridor just outside our room for any drinks we chose to bring in ourselves.
Our room was on the first floor (or 2nd floor for those of you that consider the ground floor to be level 1) and the baths were in the basement, which meant a walk down 2 flights of stairs. There was a hot bath with the natural hot spring water of Kusatsu, and also a spa bath that could be used until about 10.00 or so at night. Even though the establishment seemed to be almost fully booked, I was alone when I chose to use the bath. It was a wonderfully relaxing experience, and I'm sure helped me having such a deep sleep.
Now to the food. The theme was French. The owner it seems as well as being a sommelier specialising in French wine is also an excellent chef specialising in French cuisine. We were told to arrive to dinner on time, and when we found that the owner, and we guess, his wife, cooked and served the food for everyone at the same time, it was obvious why being on time was so important.
The menu was carefully printed up with our name and a list of the food we were to enjoy for the evening. It was absolutely wonderful. And I believe the vegetables are also grown by the owners, so all is fresh and seasonal.
Breakfast was a choice of Western or Japanese style. We chose Western simply because we wanted to experience the French influence in the cooking style. We were not disappointed.
Although we did not experience it first hand, we understand the owner is a man of many talents and often has music nights where he plays both piano and guitar. We also need to thank him for his recommendation to see a local Japanese winery. He carefully drew up a map for us so we could visit when we moved on to our next destination. We found the winery, enjoyed a modest tasting (since we were driving) and bought some bottles of wine to keep us company on the remainder of our trip. The winery was located in a small town that also had many other interesting sights for visitors, one was a special anniversary exhibition of Hokusai's work (a very famous Japanese artist). Neither of which we would have seen had it not been for our gracious host at the Pension Raisin.
Overall I would highly recommend this place to anyone travelling in Kusatsu. Excellent value, outstanding service and the opportunity to meet one very talented person, who has found his niche running a wonderfully personal B & B in what is otherwise a very touristy town.
I would love to return there one day.
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