Warm, family run traditional Japanese inn (Ryokan), very friendly and welcoming staff with great English, home cooked Japanese meals, spotless rooms – we had a great weekend stay during our 10th wedding anniversary at Shiroumaso*, located in Hakuba, a lovely little village in the northern part of Nagano prefecture.
*’Shirouma’ is the traditional way to read “Hakuba”, ‘so’ means an inn in Japanese
The ryokan has been newly refurbished but the original pillars dates back to more than 200 years ago. It is one of the first and oldest in the area.
You might be familiar with the sound of “Nagano” prefecture or “Hakuba” in Japan – it’s the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics! While Hakuba is very popular among locals and tourists for the powder snow in winter, summer in Hakuba is breath taking. The view going to Hakuba village is so beautiful. Coming from the big city of Dubai, it was a relief to see so much nature in the form of mountains, thick forests and serene lakes!
* The electric wires sometimes (no, always) spoil the great view in Japan! I wish they’d do something about it.
Also, Hakuba village is 818 meters above sea level – it’s almost like being on top of the world’s tallest building in Dubai, only instead of plain, flat desert land, we can see beautiful green nature!
The place is surrounded by high mountains, some still has snow even at the peak of summer.
Some view of Shiroumaso inside:
This is our room, a traditional Japanese room with tatami mats. I am highly allergic to house dust and mites so I am actually scared of old houses/buildings, especially with these tatami mats. Shiroumaso is one of Hakuba’s oldest ryokans but lo and behold – I did not have any allergic reaction at all! The place was so clean and the tatami mats are made out of special materials that keeps house dust and mites from accumulating! What a relief for an asthmatic like me! The owner and operating manager, Toshiro-san also said he is also allergic to dust so he makes sure the ryokan he owns and manages is free of it!
The kids loved the ample space of our room. Have you been to a ryokan? If not, you should try it, it has that homely feel to it than hotels.
We arrived at about 6 pm because we had to go to Pristine’s school and then drive to Hakuba from Matsumoto. Right after check-in and a quick chat with the host, Toshiro-san, we were told dinner was ready.
The food at Shiroumaso is prepared by Toshiro-san’s mom who uses local ingredients in most of the dishes. Nothing like good, healthy and simple homemade food to end the day. These super thin pork slices to be submerged in boiling water, immediately taken out and dipped in the sesame based sauce was a true winner! WE LOVED IT!!
Other stuff on our dinner tray included a local fish, seasonal vegetables and of course, Japanese rice.
While we were away for dinner, they set up the room with the futon beds for the night! Surprise!
Toshiro-san also told us he’s going to take us out after dinner to see fireflies! It was a guided walking tour in pitch darkness (we only have a very soft flashlight in hand to guide our way through). Fireflies are known to exist only in places with very clean water and there are plenty of that in Hakuba. What an amazing experience! It’s like being taken into another place and time, seeing the mystical creatures hovering in the darkness. This is something we would never see in Dubai!
And as if the lovely surprises weren’t enough, we were told we can use the hot spring bath to ourselves! (Normally, this is a public bath where you get naked, shower to clean yourself and then soak in the natural hot spring tub with other bathers – it’s no big deal in Japan and a must try experience if you’re there! You only got one life to live, right? Haha.) Men and women have separate bath areas of course.
After a very good sleep, we woke up to…rain! It’s a delight as we missed rain while living in Dubai but it’s a bit unfortunate because it means we could not go up the mountains or get on the gondolas to the Olympic ski jump platform. Nevertheless, we enjoyed just watching the rain from our window.
Breakfast was served early at 8am, consisting of little Japanese dishes.
We can’t say it enough, we loved our stay at this ryokan and highly recommend it to anyone visiting Japan and wanting to experience real Japanese hospitality without the worry of language barrier (very important!). It’s a great place for skiers in the winter as it is very near to the Happo One ski slopes but Hakuba isn’t just for winter, it’s a great getaway for summer as well. Very child friendly place, too.
Shiroumaso is rated 5 stars at TripAdvisor (along with being officially nominated World luxury hotel awards 2013 in the Luxury Mountain Resort and Luxury Hotel categories) so if visiting Japan and staying at a traditional Japanese inn had been on your bucket list for a while now but you don’t know where to go, take this as a thumbs up from me!
If you’ve finished touring the big chaotic city of Tokyo, rent a car with GPS and drive to the countryside, to Nagano, to Hakuba and stay at Shiroumaso. You will go home with plenty of good memories and photos to show off your friends!
Shiroumaso, 5004 Happo Hakuba Nagano Japan 399-9301
You can find them on Facebook as well.