By Mandy Bartok
If you're thinking of overnighting in Ibusuki, the town at the bottom end of Kagoshima's Satsuma Peninsula, it's worth splashing out a bit for a stay at the Ryokan Ginsyo. The large, multi-floor ryokan sits right on the edge of Kagoshima Bay, a stone's throw from where you can partake in the famous sand baths.
Despite the fact that Ryokan Ginsyo is more hotel-sized than a small intimate establishment, hospitality doesn't suffer in the slightest. When you check in, you'll be treated to green tea and a traditional sweet while you overlook the ocean just outside the door. After that, staff will lead you to your room, which may be either Western-style or Japanese-style, something you'll have chosen upon booking. Some floors are reserved for "special accommodations". One of the higher floors boasts rooms with attached rock baths on the veranda. We had booked a room on the second floor, where our own veranda sported a small stand-alone tub with perfect views of the aquamarine waters.
Should you not want to spring for a private bath of your own, the hotel offers several options for indoor hot springs. However, the best baths are located on the ryokan's roof. Here, large pools lap the very edge of the building and look straight out over the sea. At night, it can be very windy and cold up there, especially in winter. In the morning, it's the perfect place to catch the sunrise.
Guests have the option of choosing various meal packages, from no meals to half board to full board. For those who want dinner included, you have the choice of eating in the communal dining area (which resembles an Edo period restaurant) or having a more private dinner in your room. We opted for breakfast only, and were treated to a fairly sizable meal of the typical Japanese breakfast stars - rice, miso soup, pickled vegetables, and fish. One unique option was the hot spring that literally ran through the middle of our table. The staff used it to cook both our morning eggs and the ryokan's homemade tofu.
While the ryokan doesn't have much in the way of English (the website is all in Japanese and the staff have minimal English abilities), this is still a highly enjoyable place to spend an evening and the staff will make you feel at home. The website is your best bet for deals ... book early enough to ensure your private porch bath!
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