While technically within the bounds of the Nikko city area, this location is well removed from the tourists crowded around the Toshogu Shrine, or flocking to see the Kegon Falls on Chuzenji Lake. Tucked away in Nikko’s Kuriyama region, is a small Minshuku (or Japanese Bed and Breakfast) village surrounded by mountains, rivers and small farms. This is a town where everyone knows your name and greets you with a smile and a wave. One particular Minshuku, Fukufuji, stands out from the rest for its food, affordability, and most notably its staff.
At Fukufuji you get the feeling that you are staying at a family member’s home. When you first arrive at Fukufuji you will be greeted by the face of the bed and breakfast—Mi-chan. You will likely catch her as she is running around to take care of the other guests, but she will be back in moments to assist you. She runs this establishment with her husband and mother in law who take a more behind-the-scenes role. Mi-chan is a wonderful woman whose huge smile is infectious. Her warm motherly nature and boisterous spirit keep all the guests entertained. Many of her guests are repeat customers and it’s easy to see why. Mi-chan can speak some English, but knowing a little basic Japanese would serve you well.
After taking off your shoes at the building’s entrance Mi-chan will escort you to your room, one of 6 available on the property. The rooms are given names from nature including Ume (plum blossom), Take (Bamboo) and Matsu (Pine). The traditional Japanese style tatami rooms hold about 2-4 people per room and each room is equipped with a TV, a mini fridge, drinking glasses, and a dresser which contains a bath towel, a face towel, a toothbrush set, and a yukata for each guest. After dropping your bags, she will chat with you as she prepares tea and a small snack in your room. If you would like to take a soak before dinner, let her know and she will notify you once the baths become available, or you can discuss a time to reserve the baths later.
Food & Drink
Guests have the pleasure of eating a large meal served by Mi-chan who makes all the dishes—including the miso paste, by hand. One group of gentlemen who came here for a fishing trip brought the fish they caught to Mi-chan who cleaned them, put them on a spike, and set them up to grill in the sunken irori fire pit. For the more adventurous eaters, you should try this shop’s specialty—the grilled salamander! Vegetarians-- if you notify Mi-chan of your preferences at the time of your booking, she will prepare your dinner accordingly. When asked what her favorite thing about running this Minshuku was, Mi-chan replied that the best part was seeing her customer’s smiling faces after eating her food. She shuffles from table to table pouring drinks, pausing to laugh and chat with the young couples, groups of retired gentlemen, and families who have all come to see her and eat her delicious food.
After dinner, the bar opens up where Mi-chan serves up a selection of spirits and her seemingly endless energy. This room has a lot of character. The neon orange chairs and the 1980s video game cabinets which have been re-purposed as dining tables give the space a retro feel, while the Polaroid-covered walls allow you to look at the smiling faces of happy past customers. In the morning you can stop here after breakfast and Mi-chan will serve you a cup of coffee before you depart for the day.
For those looking to enjoy a traditional Japanese bath, but are too shy to share a public bathing space, the two baths at Fukufuji are perfect for you. In addition to a sign posted outside letting other guests know if the bath is occupied, they can also be locked from the inside. One bath consists of a small room for one person to shower and soak, and another small room with two sinks in which to change out of your clothes. The larger bath is located in a different building downstairs. Exit the door to the bath and change your indoor slippers to outdoor ones. Walk down the covered stairwell where you will be greeted by a small but lovely Japanese garden at the bottom. Pass through the garden to the entrance to the bathing room. Inside is a changing room that has several amenities including spare razors and non-electric massage chair. Inside the shower room there are 3 shower stations and a bath big enough to hold 3-4 people.
The standard plan for ¥8,400 per person per night this room includes a hearty dinner, breakfast, and use of the ofuro baths. If you would like to include a nomihodai plan (all-you-can-drink), you may do so for an additional ¥2,100. If you book on a weekday and would like to save a few yen, you may select the ¥6,980 plan which includes less dishes than the standard dinner plan. Those traveling with elementary school aged children and younger will receive a discount on their child’s room rate.
How to Get There
The best way to get here is by taking your own vehicle. If coming via public transportation take the Tobu Nikko Line to Kinugawa Onsen Station (鬼怒川温泉駅). From there take the bus in the direction of Meotobuchi (女夫渕) and get off at Ieyasu no Sato Minshuku Mura Iriguchi (家康の里民宿村入口). Next to the bus station are large wooden signs and a large black tori gate with the the golden seal of the Tokugawa family displayed in the center. The bus fare costs ¥1120 and takes about an hour. There are only 4 buses a day with two in the morning and two in the afternoon. The bus timetable is available under the “Access” (アクセス) section of the website.
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Brittany is a firm believer in trying all foods at least once, spending as much time outdoors as possible, and taking advantage of any opportunity to experience traditional Japanese culture. Originally from the Adirondack Valley in Upstate New York, she is currently living and teaching English in Japan's majestic and landlocked Tochigi Prefecture.