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After doing a lot of research we decided to make the lovely Marukyu Ryokan in Shuzenji, Izu, as our splurge accommodation for the trip. A ryokan, or traditional style inn, they serve traditional food, the artform-like kaiseki-ryōri, and have heavenly hot spring baths, including private open air baths on the roof.

There’s not a lot of (English) reviews for Marukyu, probably their website is not particularly friendly to English speakers, but I was able to make reservations with the help of a Japanese friend. From the first we were not disappointed in our choice. We were treated with care and attention throughout our short stay, and they upgraded our room for no extra cost. The hotel is a new building, so you don’t get the same historic atmosphere of some other ryokan, but the advantage is the clean and modern feel, albeit in the traditional tatami style. Visiting the ryokan also took us off the big city route we’d been on for the rest of our itinerary. While visiting the remote countryside might seem like a waste of time, it was a welcome change of pace and the surroundings are idyllic – filled with rice paddy fields and bamboo forest.

Of course the ryokan experience is not for everyone. Aspects of it which might seem strange to a foreigner include ordering all alcohol before the meal (so you eat in more privacy), wearing yukata, the bath etiquette (please be a good guest and follow it), and the unusual food, and the heavy Japanese-style breakfast. However by doing a little research you shouldn’t be intimidated, and can enjoy the hotel as intended, for relaxing.

Click here to read more about our Japan trip and itinerary.

Kaiseki-ryōri: the “starter” course.

To be honest the snail filled me with horror, although I enjoyed the rest of the meal.

The large outdoor bath:

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