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Reviewed June 6, 2016

I'm an American traveling with my teenage daughter, and this was the first time in Japan for either of us. We spent 3 days in Tokyo before taking the train north to stay at Ranryo for two nights. I speak no Japanese, my daughter speaks a little bit.

As a brief summary, the food was exceptional, the staff care meticulous, and the area scenery was beautiful. As a cultural experience for an American, it was an experience to remember for a lifetime. But this doesn't do justice to the stay, so I'll go into more detail.

I booked the stay from the US. At the time I didn't feel comfortable making train reservations remotely (assuming you even can), so we bought our tickets after we had gotten to know how to navigate the rail system. We bought our rail tickets about 36 hours in advance of our stay, and used the Booking.com message system to inform them of our travel plans. Booking.com says they need 48 hours for turnaround, so I wasn't sure this would work. Nevertheless, when we got off the train, within a couple of minutes a van showed up to take us to Ranryo. I mention this because in retrospect I realized that I hadn't stated in my message the precise station we were arriving at. We got off the train at Kawaji-onsen rather than the more convenient Kawaji-yumoto; while the staff didn't mention it, I suspect that what happened is that when we didn't show up at Kawaji-yumoto, the driver went looking for us. This is just one of many examples of how the staff is willing to go extraordinary lengths to ensure that you have a smooth trip.

When we arrived, we chose yukata to wear during our stay (fresh each day). We had rented pocket wifi devices in Tokyo, and these worked perfectly even up in the mountains, so when we got to our room we were able to watch youtube videos about how to tie the obi belt. The room was very pleasant, with the tatami mat flooring and sliding screens that I understand are widespread in traditional ryokan. We slept on the western beds, but they also offer traditional Japanese futons (presumably if you request them in advance they will prepare them for you before arrival).

The meals were easily the most exceptional of our entire visit to Japan. Dinner is a 10-course affair with remarkable variety, and breakfast is something like 7. The meals were a treat for all the senses. Yum.

The bathing in the onsen was also a terrific experience. This ancient tradition was new to me; if you're a westerner, it's worth doing a little online reading about the expectations. We arrived on a Thursday evening, when it was relatively quiet, and this was nice for exploring the bath and start putting my reading into practice. On Friday evening there were many more users of the bath, and I was able to pick up a few tips (and correct a few mistakes) by seeing how others did things. The baths are available 20 hours a day, and they have two separate bathing areas, one for men and one for women; to ensure that you get to see them all, men and women switch baths twice a day (with breaks around midday and between 3 and 3:30 am). They let you know which bath is for which sex at particular hours on an English-language sheet they give you at check-in, but a handy factoid is that they also use a color code: red for female and blue for male.

Ranryo offers a shuttle to take you out for the day. There seem to be two main options: hiking in the local area, or taking the train to Nikko. At breakfast, you can let them know which of these you prefer. We went to Nikko, which was amazing. But I also simply must come back and try the hiking, because it is a beautiful (and rugged) area.

Among them, the staff was able to find enough English to navigate any need we had during our visit. But part of what I liked is that I got more of a feeling of cultural immersion than elsewhere on my trip---in Tokyo, the English signs are everywhere! It's also worth noting that despite their well-deserved reputation for politeness, the Japanese also seem to have a remarkable ability to notice when inserting themselves into a situation might be beneficial. At several times during our stay in the country, we made minor mistakes (e.g., with the trains or directions), and each time a native spontaneously came up to us and asked (in perfect English) what it was we wanted to do, and then coached us through the right way to do it, on one occasion walking with us for half a mile to make sure we went the right way.

As a consequence, I'd say that, as long as you have even a slightly adventurous spirit, this is an experience to seek out. The value of the experience (paying in US$) is quite remarkable. If I could repeat just one aspect of our 10-day trip to Japan, the stay at Ranryo would be it.

Date of stay: June 2016
  • Trip type: Traveled with family
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Service
3  Thank Tim H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 15, 2015 via mobile

The ryokan sent a car to pick just the two of us from Kinugawa Onsen and on checking out insisted on sending us all the way back to Kinugawa Onsen instead of nearby Kawaji Yumoto Stn. We had booked this ryokan with the view of taking the 3hr hike from Kawaji Onsen to Ryuokyo Station but the rain closed the trail. Our room in the Ryokan was comfortable and the Kaiseki meals were tasty. The onsens were gender separated; water quality was good and one of the outdoor Onsen was very nice overlooking the river ravine. On checkout we asked to be dropped off at Ryuokyo Station and managed a short walk down to the river but the rest of the trail was closed due to the rain. We intend to revist.

Date of stay: November 2015
Trip type: Traveled as a couple
1  Thank TanSS
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 15, 2019
Google Translation

Room tip: 露天風呂付き客室がオススメです
Date of stay: March 2019
  • Trip type: Traveled solo
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Service
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 21, 2019 via mobile
Google Translation

Date of stay: January 2019
Trip type: Traveled as a couple
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 6, 2018 via mobile
Google Translation

Date of stay: November 2018
Trip type: Traveled as a couple
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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