Kinosaki is Ampersand's favourite little hot spring town, tucked away on the remote north sea coast a two hour ride from Kyoto. The Nishimuraya is its most renowned traditional inn, and one of the finest example of Japanese traditional exterior and interior design. There are very few wooden ryokan now remaining in Japan, so this alone makes this 150-year old property a rare experience. It is designed in the 'sukiya' traditional teahouse style, which immerses the guests in the world of a pre-modern Japan. As with 'ye olde worlde' character properties in Britain this could become a cliche in the wrong hands, but the Nishimuraya maintains an authenticity that is emulated but seldom bettered by newer ryokans. The simple but smart tatami-mat rooms mostly look out over an immaculately kept Japanese garden, and then within the property is the Hiratakan annexe built in 1960 but in perfect harmony with the original building. For complete immersion in Japanese culture, Ampersand recommends the 2nd floor annexe rooms with private open-air view baths. Sumptuous multi-course 'kaiseki' Japanese feasts are served in the comfort of the room - the perfect way to spend an evening after a day strolling between the various hot spring baths in this small town.
To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.Bill Bryson