By Mandy Bartok
One of the top sightseeing spots in Tokushima Prefecture is the Iya Valley, which is famous for its gorgeous mountain vistas, historic thatched roof homes, and impressive vine bridges. Kazurabashi is one of those bridges and many people who visit stay at the wonderful Hotel Kazurabashi nearby.
For anyone looking for a truly Japanese experience, the Hotel Kazurabashi is highly recommended. The level of service is some of the best I've ever experienced and the hotel is incredibly foreigner-friendly.
Most of the rooms in Hotel Kazurabashi are tatami with futons laid out in the evening for sleeping. There are also a few more expensive rooms that have a tatami area and a separate room containing twin beds. These rooms, and some of the tatami rooms, have private 'in room' hot spring baths. There really is no need to splurge on these rooms, however, since the hotel has a wide selection of fantastic public baths to choose from. Just getting to them is part of the fun!
Guests travel up a hillside by mini cable car to three open-air baths perched on a cliff overlooking the surrounding valley. One is for ladies, one is for men, and one is co-ed. As most people these days are quite shy, we had the co-ed one all to ourselves. Also at the top of the cable car is an onsen foot bath in a small garden. It is connected to a traditional thatched roof building that guests are welcome to relax in after soaking.
Along a lovely path behind the hotel are three small wooden buildings. They contain private baths that can be rented for 40 minutes, between 3pm and 9pm, for around ¥2000. They are a good choice for shy visitors that do not have a bath in their own room. And, for those who don't want to take the cable car, within the main building are large segregated male and female large onsen baths with picture windows overlooking the forest.
Although the onsen are a highlight of the visit, meals are also something very special. Dinner and breakfast are an amazing selection of delicious local dishes served around an irori (floor hearth). The staff is incredibly friendly and there is even a short cooking demonstration during dinner, complete with recipes. To top things off, the lovely okami (female manager/owner) of the hotel, dressed in kimono, sang a local folk song for guests.
There is a lounge and a small souvenir shop in the lobby. In busier seasons, the hotel has a free retro shuttle bus that takes guests (in the morning or at night) to the vine bridge and nearby waterfall. Rooms contain a great deal of bilingual information, including excellent explanations on how to use the air conditioner, room lighting, and baths. There is also English information on sightseeing spots in the area and free Wi-Fi internet access throughout the hotel.
Not interested in staying overnight at the hotel? Day visitors are also welcome to use the onsen baths between 10:00-16:00 for approximately ¥1,200.
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