This ryokan is the stuff of legend, hidden in a bamboo forest in the remote hot spring hamlet of Kurokawa, in central Kyushu. On arrival one is struck by how modernity is ingeniously concealed out of view in the gently sloping nook of a valley. Once inside the dozen or so Japanese-style bungalows, which are dotted amongst the bamboo, the art of concealment is employed with sliding screen doors to hide refrigerators, and all wiring skillfully tucked out of sight. The traditional tatami straw mat floor has been creatively re-invented to allow under floor lighting to suffuse the rooms in a gentle glow. Each bungalow has its own private hot spring bath, and the two largest also have western-style beds for those not keen to use futons on the floor. As a rule of thumb, anywhere without overhead wires or neon in Japan is bound to be special, and to watch bamboo leaves or autumn 'momiji' maples gently falling on woodland paths here is a joy. Meandering walkways in this charming little world lead to three expansive open-air hot spring baths, with distinctively cloudy, mineral-rich waters to reinvigorate the body, whilst cocooned in the bamboo canopy. Best of all, all three of these baths can be booked for private use, with Japanese floral sake and delicate small cups laid on. Every little detail has been thought of here, with the relatively young manager Kano-san providing the warmest welcome in English to guests from abroad.
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.