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Staying in a Traditional Japanese Inn

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In my 7 years of travelling Japan, I’ve been fortunate to visit 40 of the country’s 47 prefectures, travelling from freezing Hokkaido to the turquoise seas that lap the shores of Okinawa. These are the memories, moments and experiences that I frequently find myself going back to; the ones that put a smile on a face that is typically riddled with cynicism and despair. Hopefully they’ll give you some fresh ideas and inspire you to go off the beaten path and experience Japan your own way. Memories travelling Japan is an ongoing series.

Staying in a Traditional Japanese Inn | Yonezawa, Yamagata

I’d known my cheeky Japanese friend Ryotaro six months when he invited me to travel with him on a visit to see his friend Satou-san, the owner of a beautiful, traditional Japanese inn. Ryotaro had promised to get me a scoop, by getting me access to film the inn.

I’d stayed in a Ryokan (traditional inn) before, but never in winter and never quite as impressive as the Kajikaso Inn, which was tucked away in the town of Yonezawa, sandwiched between Yamagata’s picturesque mountains and buried beneath three months of relentless snowfall.

The original plan was for Ryotaro to stick to being the cameraman offscreen, but as the car journey between Sendai and Yonezawa wore on, amidst a treacherous blizzard - and admittedly, his even more treacherous playlist of Madonna songs - I switched on the camera and decided to put him in the video.

- To this day, I’ve consistently failed to get rid of him.

But our trip wasn’t all just about the Ryokan or Madonna. It was my first time to truly experience Wagyu beef and to relax in an outdoor hot spring as the snow fell around us. Anyone of these things would’ve made a great video, but the fact we had Wagyu, hot springs and a gorgeous inn all packed into our trip, sealed the deal.

Since then, I’ve been back to the Kajikaso Ryokan two more times and I wouldn’t hesitate to say that in the winter months, there’s nowhere else in Japan I’d rather be.

Though I’ll admit, I didn’t take Ryotaro with me on the follow up trips - I’ve still not forgiven him for making me drink the local spring water on our first outing, which tasted like a dirty puddle filled with sulphur.

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