River flowing slowly beside lush green hills, low-lying clouds and fresh air. Only the sound of the water pouring into my bath was breaking the silence. I just sat there, in the hot spring bath on my balcony, taking it all in. Instant relaxation.
location: 1452 Kawayu, Hongu-cho, Tanabe-city, Wakayama, Japan (check the ryokan’s website for directions from major cities fuziya.co.jp)
room type: Kumano Modern Room with open-air bath
price: from ¥27 150 (~350AUD) per person, includes breakfast and dinner
Kumano Modern rooms are western style (wooden floors, beds) designed in wood, bamboo and earth themes. They all feature a private bath on the balcony overlooking the river below. There are three rooms of this type available while the rest of the ryokan offers Japanese-style rooms.
The size of the room, especially when compared to most hotels we’ve been to in Japan, is great. It feels very private too. There’s a sense of calm while the dim light creates a romantic environment. The room seems well suited for couples – I could see ourselves celebrating an anniversary or honeymooning in a place like this.
Meals are served in a dining room downstairs. Kaiseki dinner (traditional, multi-course Japanese dinner) was one of the highlights. The table set for our party of 4 looked a bit overwhelming at first. There was so much food and more was coming. But it also had a nice flow to it. It required some DIY with grilling meat and veggies and lasted for 2 hours. The dinner featured ayu – the sweet fish that Wakayama is famous for.
For breakfast, we had a choice of Western or Japanese (we were asked about our preference and time at check-in). Of course, we opted for Japanese – there’s no point of travelling if you don’t try and don’t immerse yourself in full experience.
We are huge fans of Japanese breakfasts, especially in colder months. They’re quite filling but not heavy. My two favourite things are nattō (fermented soybeans, which unfortunately wasn’t offered on this occasion) and onsen eggs.
This traditional style Japanese inn features many bathing options. There are two indoor onsens, marble and wooden, on the ground floor of West Wing. These are separate for men and for women. There is also an open-air bath, separate for men and women, on the East side.
Then, there’s the “magical” river. Kawayu Onsen is located on the Oto River where hot spring water bubbles to the surface of the river. That explains the name: kawa means river and yu means hot water. You can go to the river and dig your own bath – how awesome is this?
The front desk has you covered if you don’t bring your swimsuit and has Japanese-style swimsuits available for rent. There are also a souvenir shop, a tearoom and multiple vending machines.
After dinner, we were also offered an additional relaxation session in a private onsen. This one quite large, semi-open and at an additional charge of ¥3240 (~42AUD) for 45 minutes.
The ryokan, although traditional and may make you feel like in an old Japan, offers free wifi.
It was our first ryokan experience and what a treat it was. Very peaceful place that left us feeling pampered, relaxed and ready for more walking on the Kumano Kodo Trail.
See it on the video
Disclaimer: We were hosted guests of Fujiya Ryokan and Wakayama Tourism Office. That didn’t influence our opinions and we stay, as always, honest.