6 Traditional Japanese Guest Houses that will Steal Your Heart

Known as "kominka", these hidden gems of the Japanese countryside are full of charm and history

Shizuoka > Ito

Izukogen Onsen Hananokumo

This 7-room kominka makes an excellent hideaway for adults, situated amidst the forests of Izu. Each guest room is equipped with a terrace and an outdoor bath where scenic views of Izu's sea as seen through the trees can be enjoyed. Leave the hustle and the bustle of city behind and find your moment of zen at a place where time stands still.

Nara > Gose

Sasayuri-Ann

Located in scenic Fukano, which was once voted as one of the Top 100 Japanese countryside places for its breathtaking views of nature, seemingly as though it is floating in the clouds, this kominka takes only one reservation per night. The stillness in the main hall, with an traditional sunken hearth (irori) in its center and the beautiful construction of the thatched roof overhead, is profoundly overwhelming.

Oita > Yufu

Yufuin Onsen Hoteiya

A unique hideaway in Yufuin where the dedicated staff strives to uphold the privacy of each guest. The facilities consist of the main building, equipped with two guestrooms, and an 11-room annex, with ample distance between each unit. Enjoy a scenic view of Mount Yufu from the outdoor bath as it transforms through the four seasons. Wake up to the pleasant sounds of Japanese bantam chickens as they freely roam the grounds. Breath in the fresh country air of Yufuin and your heart will feel at peace.

Fukushima > Kitakata

Furusato Kaiseki Shiguretei

Surrounded by fields and rice paddies, this old residence is serenely situated in Japan's bucolic countryside. The furnishings, which share a 100-year history with the property itself, emit the warmth and kindness that can only be found in objects that have aged with love and care. In the common room, featuring a traditional sunken hearth (irori), you may find yourself having a once-in-a-lifetime encounter.

Gifu > Takayama

Nihonnoyado Hidatakayama Wanosato

A hidden gem standing in an expanse of untouched greenery. The annex is built in the same architectural style as the historic villages of Shirakawa-go (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), seeming like it has come right out of a scene from an ancient Japanese folk tale...it is even equipped with its own spinning water wheel! Enjoy local Yamasato cuisine, featuring delicious premium-grade Hida beef--a regional specialty renowned across Japan for its melt-in-your-mouth savoriness. The charmingly rustic bathing facilities are also something to look forward to; have a nice, long soak in the Japanese cypress bath followed by a refreshing steam in the traditional stone sauna.

Tochigi > Nikko

Yunishigawa Onsen Heike no Sho

Built in 1718, this guesthouse is distinguished by its thatched roof and is situated at the source of a hot spring. Over 1,000 pieces of ancient personal items are on display in the facility, and the traditional sunken hearths (irori) and mud walls (tsuchikabe) lend an air of history to the guest rooms. You can also enjoy a relaxing soak in various outdoor baths, where the soothing hot water flows directly from the source.

What are "kominka"?

Kominka is the Japanese term for traditional Japanese homes usually found in the countryside. These buildings are often a few hundred years old, but, thanks to innovative Japanese architecture, are still in great condition. Nowadays kominka are becoming more and more rare as more people move to the city. However, a lot of kominka have been repurposed as accommodations for people visiting Japan's beautiful countryside.

Staying at a kominka has several great perks. The buildings themselves are charmingly rustic and filled with history, so travelers looking for accommodations with a unique yet homey atmosphere need look no further. Kominka are usually located in the middle of idyllic natural scenery; guests can enjoy true peace and quiet. Additionally, kominka are a treasure trove of Japanese design--many kominka have thatched roofs, bathing facilities built with aromatic Japanese cypress, outdoor baths with beautiful views of nature, old-style sunken hearths (irori), and more. Furthermore, if you decide to have your meals at the kominka, you can be sure to be in for a treat. The majority of kominka offer home-cooked cuisine filled with regional specialties and local produce, often prepared with traditional methods that you'd would have a hard time finding in the city.

Last but not least, the staff who serve your needs while staying at a kominka pride themselves on giving you warm country hospitality. At some kominka, you'll be greeted by an okami-san (proprietess), all decked up in a kimono. Also, many kominka have been run by the same family for multiple generations--some for even dozens of generations! The opportunity to engage with lovely local people is just another boon of staying at a kominka.

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