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“Perfect ryokan for a luxury Japanese ski holiday” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Ryokan Sakaya

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Ryokan Sakaya
Certificate of Excellence
Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
46 reviews
23 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 41 helpful votes
“Perfect ryokan for a luxury Japanese ski holiday”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 14, 2014

Never having stayed at a ryokan before, the experience was a little daunting at first, but soon we relaxed into Sakaya's beautiful surroundings and friendly hospitality. We were in Nozawaonsen for five nights in late December, and the ryokan was fully booked, with a mix of Japanese and non-Japanese guests.

The English language skills of the staff ranged from completely fluent to rudimentary, but an iPad with Google Translate was adequate for most purposes! At the time of booking, we were offered a choice of Western or Japanese rooms. We chose a Japanese room for the more authentic ryokan experience. The main part of our room had tatami flooring, and there was also a carpeted area with two western armchairs and wardrobe. The staff prepared our futons during dinner, and put them away at breakfast time. We never used the ensuite shower because, like most other guests, we used the beautiful onsen baths on the second floor of the hotel every day (often more than once a day!).

The highlight of our ryokan stay was the dining experience. Meals were served in the 'restaurant' on the second floor, which consisted of private tatami rooms, private dining rooms with tables/chairs, and a larger dining room with several tables. Breakfast was included in the room rate. We chose the Japanese breakfast each day, although a Western-style breakfast was also available as an alternative. Every morning we were greeted with a sumptious feast of 'onsen' egg, fresh tofu, fish freshly grilled on the table, salad, fruit, Japanese pickles, rice, miso soup and other local delicacies. Served kaiseki-style, dinners were even more elaborate and spectacular. We initially booked dinner only for the first two nights, but after eating at other restaurants in the village for the next two nights, we decided to return to the ryokan for our final dinner becaue it was so good. There was a different menu each evening, and each course was explained to us in English by the friendly waitress. They even provided a printed English menu on one of the three occasions.

The ryokan was very well located - an easy five-minute walk to the 'Yu Road' (a long moving walkway transporting skiers and boarders up to Hikage ski slope). Shops, restaurants, bars, gift stores and several public baths were all very close, and buses for Togari Nozawaonsen train station and Nagano were only several minutes away on foot. The ryokan provided complimentary gumboots for walking around the village, and there was a large secure drying room for skis, boards and other gear.

Room Tip: Reserve a Japanese room, and book at least one dinner. As ryokan guests, dinner only cost us ¥3150...
See more room tips
  • Stayed December 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank Red_Turtle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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96 reviews from our community

Traveler rating
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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (16)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Japanese first
  • Any
English first
Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
34 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 4, 2013

The Ryokan Sakaya is perhaps my favorite inn from my trip (with Ten Thousand Waves Travel) to onsen towns in Nagano and its environs. Walking in, you are greeted with warmth and the view of the spectacular garden and koi pond. The food here is also delicious, and the staff serve it with professionalism and humor (upon hearing that our sashimi was carp, I pointed out the window at the pond and pretended to count fish... the server laughed, and we all enjoyed the joke). The baths are quite nice, too, with an outdoor onsen and cold plunge pool that was just magical in the cool automn air. Nozawa itself is a spectacular town, complete with the Main Bath which is just down the street from the ryokan. I hope to return one day soon.

  • Stayed November 2013, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank Langtry1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 14, 2013

First ski trip to Japan and we wanted to combine skiing with a cultural experience. After some homework on Japanese resorts we chose Nozawa Onsen and Ryokan Sakaya, and as they say it pays to do your homework. From the minute we entered the foyer we were treated like VIPs and when we got to our wonderful Japanese room we received green tea and a fitting for our Yukata robes. The Olsens are beautiful, with both indoor and outdoor including a sauna. The Japanese breakfasts were a feast in themselves and although we did not eat dinner at the Ryokan we did try the extensive array of resturants in the town. The manager and his staff were very helpful and arranged ski storage on the mountain for us and even gave us a lift to the bus station when we left.
We stayed in late January and there were no crowds, either in the town or on the slopes. Can not wait to return next year!

Room Tip: If you go to Japan choose a Japanese room, which are usually bigger than the western rooms and the f...
See more room tips
  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
8 Thank Martin B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Tokyo, Japan
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 6, 2013

We recently spent a in weekend in Nozawa and had the best time, largely due to the Ryokan Sakaya. Uchino, the manager, is very helpful and speaks English. He and the staff were very accommodating, helpful and friendly. His recommendations for restaurants and activities were all great! The location is really convenient too, 10 minute walk to the bottom of the "Moving Walk" an escalator that leads to the bottom of the gondola. Also, I recommend scheduling some time in the "Family Bath" which is a private onsen bath that they let guests use for no charge.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank Andi B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Canberra, Australia
Level Contributor
79 reviews
22 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 42 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 17, 2013

Ryokan Sakaya is very welcoming with outstanding attentive staff. We arrived from the Narita bus at around 2am, and the night manager helped us get all our luggage to our rooms. We had a "western style" room with 2 single "western style" beds, and a traditional Japanese room, with 2 single "western style" beds on the tatami mat floor. The beds were very firm with low pillows filled with what felt like dried lentils - I will try the futon next time, as I found the bed and pillows too firm. The western style room had a shower and western style toilet. The Japanese room had a tiny bathroom with a deep Japanese bath with shower over it, and a western style toilet. We didn't use the bath or shower in our rooms, because we became huge fans of the onsen way of washing then bathing. The onsens in Ryokan Sakaya are really beautiful - such a worthwhile experience, and especially good after skiing. If you are a first timer and nervous about getting your clothes off in public, book the private onsen within the Ryokan. Also, ask for the information sheet in English to help you do the right things.

We enjoyed the Japanese breakfast on our first morning, but stuck with more familiar western style breakfast on the other mornings. There are tatami mat dining rooms, and at least 1 room with table and chairs. If you want to eat dinner in the restaurant within the ryokan (or many other restaurants in Nozawa Onsen) you have to book at the start of the day, or the day before. This isn't because they will always be full, but because the chefs require that time to prepare the meal. They will not take you in the restaurant at short notice, even if the restaurant is empty!

We had come to Japan to ski, so we had a lot of ski gear. There is a ski room on the ground floor of the ryokan. There is not much room for luggage, ski jackets or suitcases, especially in the western style room. On the first day we lugged all the skis, poles and ski boots up the Yu-road wearing our regular shoes, then paid to store all the ski gear each night at the St Anton shop at the top of the Yu-road (100 yen per person per night). This saved us walking in ski boots or carrying ski gear until our day of departure.

The staff at Ryokan Sakaya were so friendly and helpful. English is not spoken as widely in Nozawa Onsen as in other popular Japanese ski resorts, so take a phrase book, and accept that some things will be lost in translation. That being said, I highly recommend Ryokan Sakaya and Nozawa Onsen for a rich and fascinating cultural experience (accompanied by magnificent powder snow)!

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
6 Thank TnJnBnK
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brisbane, Australia
Level Contributor
30 reviews
15 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 22, 2012

If you've been to Japan, you know that everyone is super-polite,smiling and honestly very happy to make your life easier or more comfortable. Imagine this multiplied by 10, and you get Ryokan Sakaya. I'm running out of superlatives in describing how we were treated as extremely valuable guests, all staff did their best to make our stay a truely memorable one. Alhough sometimes we didn't really know what to do (as a ryokan, very traditional Japanese experience for the westerners), or how to behave, they always showed us the right way. If you book it, well worth getting breakfast and dinner, too. The best Japanese food I've ever had, presented in an aesthetically pleasing way, Japanese haute cuisine. The onsen in the hotel is very nice, feels sooooo good after a day of skiing. We were sitting in the outside pool, while snowing on our head, like the famous snow monkeys:)

  • Stayed December 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank nyikoka
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Nagano Prefecture, Japan
Level Contributor
222 reviews
171 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 236 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 12, 2011

This is arguably the best traditional ryokan in Nozawa Onsen. The location is as central as possible (right behind o-yu), although if you're there for skiing the nearest lift is a 10-minute stroll away in ski boots. It's a beautiful classic building, well maintained, with a gorgeous inner courtyard garden.

This is completely authentic, and not "tailored" for non-Japanese guests, but the staff are unfazed by foreigners. The service level is the same, foreigner or Japanese. I was there with a large group of caucasian friends, ranging from long-time Japan residents to fresh-off-the-boat first-timers, and everyone felt welcome and relaxed. It's not cheap, but you're getting appropriate value for your money in terms of experience, ambience, food, and accommodation.

The rooms are large and many are in fact suites of rooms. We only took Japanese style rooms but I think there are some semi-western rooms too. They're clean and well appointed, with good toilets and bathrooms. The futons were as fluffy and wonderful as you'd expect. We all slept deeply (even some of my friends who had been complaining at the thought of sleeping on the floor). The shared onsen baths are excellent - atmospheric, clean, large - with a small outdoor rotenburo bath too. Although you should try the soto-yu (the public baths dotted around the village) you'll appreciate the luxury of the shared baths in Sakaya when you come home.

Dinner was a masterpiece kaiseki, almost entirely consisting of fresh food that had been picked, grown, or caught locally. It's not labelled "organic" but this will be one of the freshest and most natural meals you could imagine, anywhere (to be fair, that's probably true of many of the meals you'd have in Nozawa - it's a gourmet town!). They'll help you choose the right sake to go with the meal, and will run out to fetch a few bottles of local beer, too, if you ask. Breakfast was Japanese on the first morning - a mini-kaiseki of many courses - but on the second morning we'd requested a western breakfast, which was more of a Japanese riff on European breakfast items, than your all-American blow-out (cutely shape-cut grapefruit, coffee in exquisite hand-made mugs, artistic ketchup designs on your omelette...).

It's hard to think of negatives. They won't serve alcohol in the lobby lounge, just coffee/tea and soft drinks, which was a minor shame. Wi-fi worked in the lobby but not in the rooms. And as usual in a ryokan, meal-times are broadly fixed, and certainly you need to decide them in advance. If you're an uber-keen skier you might want somewhere closer to the slopes that'll get you through breakfast and out in time for the first lift. And this is a ryokan - it's a whole set-piece experience in itself. If you just want a place to stay and do your own thing, then this, like any ryokan, would be a waste (and you should try the new serviced vacation apartments close by, or one of the many small pensions around).

I've visited Nozawa Onsen many times and stayed in various places in the village (and many ryokans around Japan). This is the best traditional ryokan in town, and one of the better ones you'll stay anywhere in Japan in the upper-middle price bracket.

  • Stayed November 2010, traveled with friends
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
8 Thank Peter D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Ryokan Sakaya

Property: Ryokan Sakaya
Address: 9329 Toyosato, Shimotakai-gun, Nozawaonsen-mura 389-2502 , Nagano Prefecture
Location: Japan > Chubu > Nagano Prefecture > Shimotakai-gun > Nozawaonsen-mura > Nozawa Onsen
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 45 Hotels / Ryokan in Nozawaonsen-mura
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Ryokan Sakaya 3.5*
Number of rooms: 29
Reservation Options:
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Also Known As:
Ryokan Sakaya Hotel Nozawaonsen-Mura
Ryokan Sakaya Japan/Nagano Prefecture

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