You can't get any more central in Kurokawa Onsen than Ryokan Yamanoyu. It sits right on the main street of the town, or what passes for a main street, since only a handful of cars seem to pass every hour. If you're looking for an affordable ryokan in the heart of the hot springs action, this traditional inn will fit the bill.
Leave the crowds of pedestrians behind as you pass into Yamanoyu's quiet lobby, where dark polished wooden floors lead to a sunken hearth and a cozy bar away from the street. A pair of family baths are on the ground floor in the rear of the ryokan, but all of the guestrooms are at least one floor up. Yamanoyu is one of the only ryokan to boast an elevator (even running up to the baths on the roof!) so don't worry if you've packed a heavy bag and don't want to cart luggage up and down stairs.
The rooms are slightly narrow but long, with private toilets and windows that overlook the river on the other side of the street. Despite my room being right over the road (though three stories up), there was no noise at all at night.
The ryokan's meals are served in individual dining rooms on the second floor. The food was memorable and filling, with an emphasis on local vegetables, a delicious hot pot and some mushroom dumplings that I wish I had the recipe for. Breakfast is equally ample, with typical Japanese dishes like sweet egg omelet, rice, fish and more mountain veggies.
The highlight of the inn is its baths. Intriguingly enough, they are located on the roof, up an angled walkway to the wooden bathhouse. It's a frigid journey in the winter months so you might want to wear a pair of socks with your yukata! The changing rooms are rustic (though fully equipped) but the baths themselves are lovely. Spacious and quiet, they're surrounded by maple trees and the rock face of the hill behind the ryokan. The pools are softly illuminated in the late evening and early morning hours, which makes bathing at that time a somewhat mystical experience.
The only detractor of Yamanoyu is the parking situation. While there is a small onsite parking lot with space for two, possibly three cars, the road in front of the ryokan is very narrow and backing the car into the lot may be a challenge. While you may park up the hill in the general lot next to the tourism office, it's a bit of a slog down the steep staircase behind the inn, especially toting luggage (or children).
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