Flowing with salt spring water from the Niigata mountains, this inn is a cultural property of Japan
There is a hot spring that flows through Sanjo City, a place which was once Shitada Village and is located in the mountains of Niigata Prefecture.
Rankeisou is a hot spring ryokan, a type of traditional Japanese inn,
which has been built in a spacious area covering 3000 tsubo (about 9900 ㎡) and has three appealing features; its onsen, the food and the building itself.
As you near the building, you will no doubt be fascinated by the building’s charm.
This three-story wooden building includes a watchtower and you can feel its history as it stands there, clearly well cared for.
The surrounding garden has a quiet environment and is rich in nature with a large pond and seasonal wild mountain grass.
The inn has 3 different buildings adding up to a total of 17 guest rooms.
There is the ‘Keiryu-kan’ built in 1992 where guests can see the flow of the river from their room,
the ‘Ryokuhu-kan’ which was originally a restaurant built in the early Showa period,
and finally the ‘Rindou-kan’ which faces the mountains.
Price and meals vary according to the room
For example, the Yamazato Kaiseki full course is most reasonable with Rindou accommodation,
costing 15,000 yen per person (excluding tax, 2 meals per person, 2 people per room).
The most expensive would be with a room in the Keiryu-kan at 22,000 yen (excluding tax, 2 meals per person, 2 people per room).
We recommend the Ryokuhu-kan which overflows with charm and has also been designated as a registered tangible cultural property of Japan due to its rich history.
Every room in this building is different, each with an individual personality.
For example, the ‘Chigusa’ room has two areas of 8 tatami mats and 6 tatami mats, with a full view of the pond and stream outside.
It also has a decorative window that shows the architectural style in the early Showa era.
You can also have a look at the other rooms to see what they are like before the other guests arrive.
Enjoy the salty hot spring waters
As for onsens, there are large communal bathing areas called ‘Yama no Yu’, or ‘Hot Water of the Mountains’, which can be reserved for free.
Although the spring quality does not vary between the different baths, we still recommend this one.
There are 2 Public bath for Men and Women too. (This photo is for Women)
You will be able to book a time slot during check in, but during the hours of 22:00 – 10:00, a key will be left at reception so that anybody can use it,
even if you do not make an advance reservation.
The Yama no Yu consists of two bathing areas, the ‘Ishi-yu’, and the ‘Fuka-yu’.
The Ishi-yu, literally ‘stone hot water’, has an outdoor bath and an indoor bath made from stones.
As it is located the furthest upstream, it has a wonderful open feeling and visitors can relax here while watching the river flow by.
The Fuka-yu, or ‘deep hot water’, also has an indoor and outdoor bath
but the outdoor bath is intriguing in that those who use it must stand in the hot water as it is 130cm deep.
I have only ever used another onsen like this at Namari Onsen in Iwate prefecture, so there is no doubt that this is an invaluable experience.
This hot spring gives your body a strange feeling, as if it is floating like a feather, so please give it a try if you get the chance.
Spring water is also used in cooking
The well where the water is sourced from is located on the premises of the hotel,
and it contains a high level of salt to the point that just one lick leaves you with the taste of tea made from seaweed.
Visitors should definitely head to the lounge and try the roasted green tea brewed there in a copper pan using the spring water.
The tea is very salty and delicious.
Hot spring porridge is served for breakfast, cooked using locally sourced koshihikari, a type of rice, and water pumped from the hot spring source.
You can taste the wonders of hot springs as the dish is filled with flavor despite using no seasoning or broths.
This is Breakfast. (The front cup is Hot spring porridge)
Meals served either in the guest room or a private dining room
The meals served are mainly local mountain favorites and because the inn has no water supply lines, the water used in cooking is spring water.
If they need to add salt, then sometimes the hot spring water is also used.
The Yamazato Kaiseki full course consists of 13 dishes.
The ‘Koi no Arai’ dish is sashimi made from carp which has been caught locally and is characterized by its crunchy texture.
It is especially delicious when eaten with mustard and miso, and the spiciness of mustard and sweetness of miso mean this dish goes perfectly with sake.
(Guests can request an alternative to sashimi if they would prefer.)
‘Zenmai no ichi-pon ni’, or boiled Asian royal fern, is Rankeisou’s featured dish which uses Asian royal fern, a type of wild grass, harvested in spring.
It is very delicious with a slightly sweet flavor, like soy sauce, and a crisp texture.
‘Niigata wagyu no ishi-yaki’, or stone-grilled Niigata wagyu beef, is also a splendid dish to see with guests cooking the meat themselves,
taking pieces of wagyu beef and grilling them on top of hot stones.
As the meat is not fatty, you can take your time to chew it and really enjoy the flavor.
Niigata is also Japan’s leading rice production area and famous for its sake, so it would be a good opportunity to enjoy Japanese sake along with the food.
The owner of the inn loves sake, so if you tell him what you like, he can offer a recommendation.
And, of course, the rice which comes out last is also delicious.
Please enjoy the sweetness and tasty flavor of "Koshihikari".