One of the most important factors of travel is where you will stay, and for Westerners taking a trip around Japan, you can’t miss out on the opportunity to stay in a traditional Ryokan. A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese Inn, typified by soft tatami mats, futon beds on the floor and a set of yukata to wear while you relax. So if you are heading to Kagoshima and like the sound of the Ryokan experience, a great choice of accommodation is the Nakazono Ryokan.
Mr. Nakazono (the owner of the inn) made our stay very pleasant indeed. His English language ability is very good and he’s clearly used to having foreigners stay at the inn. On arrival, we were ushered into the kitchen and bombarded with a flurry of maps and leaflets in English, to which he added his own scribbles and helpful highlights. If you need extra help with getting to locations further afield like Ibusuki, he can help you with that too.
Breakfast and dinner are not offered as standard, but as this is a private, family-run business, you can speak to Mr. Nakazono if you have special requirements. Tea, coffee and snacks are provided free of charge in the large communal kitchen, where you can prepare your own meals if you don’t fancy eating out. Naturally, there is Wifi available as well as a communal computer. Rooms are air-conditioned and provided with towels, etc.
There are communal areas dotted around the building where you can relax – a living-room space on the second floor is equipped with comfy armchairs and decorated with antiques such as a suit of traditional armour. There are lots of pretty little stools in the entrance where you can sit quietly and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
As is typical in Ryokans, the rooms at the Nakazono Ryokan are made up of mats of tatami on the floor (so remember to remove your corridor slippers before stepping into the bedroom!) Beds are in the futon style and prepared directly on the floor without a frame. If you’ve never tried one before, rest assured that these beds are very comfortable – the thickness of the mattress is 20 centimetres, so if you’re thinking that a futon on tatami will be comparable to a sleeping-bag on the living-room floor, think again. Futons are great to sleep on.
Rates are 4,200 per person per night, regardless of which room you stay in. There is a discount if you pay by cash at the ryokan. The largest room available accommodates up to six people, and there are plenty of single rooms available too. Most rooms do not have a private bathroom, but there are plenty of shared facilities.
One of the best things about the Nakazono Ryokan is the location. If you arrive to Kagoshima by train, take the local tram to Shiyakusho-mae Station, and from there it is just a one minute walk to the ryokan. If you have come to Kagoshima for sightseeing, you will no doubt be doing at least one of the following: going to the aquarium, going to the seafront to see the volcano, or taking the ferry across to Sakura-Jima. If any one of those is on your hit list, you’re in luck – the seafront (the location of the aquarium and the ferry port) is just a few minutes walk away from the ryokan. You can roll out of bed and, ten minutes later, find yourself enjoying the wonderful view across the water to Sakura-Jima, with the volcano belching ash out into the sky.
There is a good quality public onsen at the end of the road, less than one minute away from the ryokan. So if you’re stressed out from travelling and need a nice, relaxing bath, visiting the onsen is a cheap way to spend the evening. A few minutes walk up the road will find you on the History and Culture street, with easy access to the City Art Gallery, Reimeikan local history museum and Hiroyama Park (with amazing views across the Sakura-Jima.)
So what are you waiting for? As if there weren’t already enough reasons to visit Kagoshima, now you know about a fantastic local inn where you can catch a good night’s sleep in a top location. The price is right too – why pay more for a standard hotel room when you can be accommodated in a cute, traditional building steeped with history and culture?