56 days in Japan, yet one minshuku we stayed in consistently stood out as the best accomodation throughout the entire trip. I had low expectations, because it was just a random cheap accomodation found through the internet, and boy, was I pleasantly surprised.
Minshuku Rindou-no-ie (民宿りんどうの家), Y5500 (roughly S$85) per person per night (including breakfast and dinner) after a Y500 discount if you reserve through email after visiting their website at http://www3.ocn.ne.jp/~garrr/Rindou.html.
Free transport to and from Nikko station (call them from the tourist information office at Nikko). The owner will pick you up in his car.
It is important to note that there are two Nikko stations: JR Nikko and Tobu Nikko, each operated by a different railway company. They are just a short walk apart. Most visitors will arrive at Tobu Nikko, especially if you don’t hold a Japan Rail Pass and have purchased a Nikko World Heritage Pass.
Rindou-no-ie is located in one of these small, quiet residential neighbourhoods just outside the town centre:
Most people come to Nikko for the excellent temples, which are some of the best I’ve seen in Japan, but another reason to visit is the awesome scenery that just takes your breath away. This is the kind of scene that you’ll see as the owner drives you to the minshuku or when you’re walking from Rindou-no-ie to the temples/station.
The following picture shows the exterior of the minshuku (roughly translated to something like a Bed & Breakfast). It looks like an ordinary, well-kept house in the outskirts of a small Japanese town.
Genkan (entrance area):
Rest lounge/living room:
There is one PC with internet access which is free for guests’ use.
You can also buy some beer/ice cream if you want to, all reasonably priced:
In the living room, there’s an amazing noticeboard pinned with tons of postcards sent by tourists from all corners of the world who have stayed here before. You can see how many people are fans of this minshuku! I was surprised that there are hardly any reviews of this place online – I guess everyone feels that this place is too good that he wants to keep the secret to himself !
Cute decorations in the living room lend it a very homely touch. Indeed, the entire minshuku is like that – homely, warm and welcoming.
A passageway from the living room leads to the toilets. Notice just how well-maintained, clean and beautiful the place is.
The toilet and bathroom are both on the first floor, while the guestrooms are on the second floor. That is perhaps the only inconvenience you will face staying here. But really, its a small inconvenience! Many ryokans also have toilets separated from the rooms.
Stairway to second floor:
A common lounge area is at the top of the stairway, with books and comics, as well as a microwave oven for your use if you so desire.
Like most minshukus/ryokans, each room has its own name written in calligraphy positioned just above the sliding wooden doors.
Like the rest of the minshuku, it is spotlessly clean, and very homely and comfy. The room is bigger than it looks like in the photo, and includes the standard TV, heater, hot water flask etc. Ours was the biggest room in the minshuku and it could comfortably fit three people with excess space leftover to move around or place your luggage on. This is a modern home with all the conveniences of good heating and insulation, so you don’t have to shiver at night (which actually happened to us at some even more higher-priced ryokans in other towns). Incredibly comfy futons, and once again, I need to emphasise that this minshuku is really, really clean.
Y5500 for a night in that room comes with breakfast and dinner! Look at the dinner spread for 5 people:
Fresh ingredients, awesome cooking, large variety. Most ryokans charge upwards of Y8000/person/night, and some of them we stayed in can’t even cook that well!
I’m not a connoisseur who can tell you the specifics about good food, like what cut of beef, where the fish comes from, etc. But I love food, and I sure damned well know when something is delicious. Take my word for it - dinner was GREAT.
Some of the dishes served:
I have to reiterate that this is Y5500 for one night including two meals. And there’s a large portion of sashimi, tempura and beef included in the dinner! These are usually some of the most expensive items on a restaurant menu, and some ryokans which charge more don’t even serve such a big portion of these.
And what I consider to be the most important, the rice (ご飯), was impeccable. Steamed to the perfect balance of softness and chewiness.
You can hardly find any fault with this dinner. All the while, we kept asking ourselves, is this really, really just Y5500?!
Even the chopsticks holder is so cute:
Of course, breakfast isn’t as heavy an affair as dinner, but wow, it was still quality food.
I love Japanese-style “omelette rolls” (don’t know what they are actually called). The above picture shows a pair of them, served at Rindou-no-ie’s breakfast.
Service standard is as good as, or even better, than some ryokans. Three instances of good service that are still fresh in my mind: 1) Each time we entered the house, the owner arranged our shoes, which we had so untidily placed, neatly at the entranceway, so that it would be easy for us to just slip into them and go; 2) The old grandmother came out of the house to bow to us as we were driven to the station, and remained bowing all the way until the car had left the street! 3) We still wanted to explore Nikko a bit after checking out, so the owner drove us to the temples area, then ferried our luggage to the train station when we were ready to leave!
If you ever find yourself in Nikko, stay at Minshuku Rindou-no-ie! I promise it’ll be one of the finest, if not the best, accommodation in your entire trip to Japan. And probably one of the cheapest as well. Minshuku Rindou-no-ie is so good and is such value-for-money that I still feel it is a little unbelievable even today when I look back at it all.
Note: Many minshukus and ryokans in Japan, including Rindou-no-ie, operate on a trust system. No deposit and no credit card details are required so if you’ve made a reservation, please do turn up!