By Rod Walters
Suppose you’d like to stay in Dogo, enjoying a ryokan atmosphere but without the cost and formality of a typical ryokan. Instead of eating a lavish meal in your room and then going to bed, perhaps you’d like to try one of the many restaurants and bars in Dogo — but you want the convenience of breakfast in the morning. What are your options?
Well, Spa Ryokan Dougoya is about your only option in fact. This gem is tucked away behind the massive grey bulk of Dogo-kan Hotel, presenting an interesting contrast with its elegant wood-framed windows, and its tile and copper roof. Originally, Dougoya was a ryōtei, an upscale restaurant with several luxurious private rooms. Built in 1935 in the early Showa Period, it was frequented by politicians as a discreet meeting place. With the addition of a bath with water piped from the Dogo onsen source, a couple of showers, a common room and a guest’s kitchen, the ryōtei became a budget ryokan. It’s run by Hisatsugu Shimizu, owner of the popular Backpackers Miyajima in Hiroshima.
The early Showa was a stylish age, and Dougoya is a fine example of the quiet elegance that prevailed at the time. The building is beautifully preserved, and those with an eye for design will enjoy the craftsmanship displayed in the details of the interior decoration. This is complemented by artful ceramics and scrolls added by Shimizu-san. The tables and the armrests for the low chairs are all antique too.
Dougoya is conveniently located close to Dogo Onsen Honkan, just up the hill from Dogo Arcade and Tsubaki Onsen. Local restaurants include Dogo no Machiya café, Dogo Biiru Kan Brewery Restaurant, Nikitatsu-An Restaurant, and Dogo’s “Circus Bar”, Wani to Sai. Prices start from 3,000 yen per night for a futon in a dormitory-style room, which includes breakfast. This is ideal for budget travelers and ohenro pilgrims. The price is the same for weekdays and weekends. Private rooms start at 6,000 yen per person per room, with the rate discounted by 500 yen for each extra person. Weekends are 500 yen extra. So four people can stay for 20,000 yen on a weekday, and 25,000 yen on a weekend.
The upstairs rooms offer fine views over the ryokan itself on one side, and to Matsuyama Castle on the other.
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I was born in Bristol, England, and I came to Japan in 1991 … which means I’ve lived half my life in this island nation on the other side of the world. The theme of my career in Japan has been communication. I started as an English teacher, and moved into translation as I learned Japanese. I worked at a well-known electronics manufacturer, facilitating their multinational communications before I became a freelance translator. As such, I translated a lot of tourism-related information. It was obvious to me that most of this isn’t sufficient to convey the excitement and wonder of Japan. In 2011, I established Knowledge Travel Partners, an inbound tourism consultancy. After living in several regions of Japan, I settled in Ehime where my wife is from. It’s on the southern island of Shikoku facing the beautiful Seto Inland Sea, Japan’s Mediterranean. The pace of life here is slow and peaceful, but we do like to throw a raucous festival now and again.