Kuhe Ryokan

Traditional Japanese inn with with unusual comforts in Yutagawa Onsen

By Alena Eckelmann    - 3 min read

The memories of a winter trip to Yamagata in February several years ago are still vivid in my memory. What an adventure!

When travelling to Yamagata Prefecture in February most people want to go skiing at the Zao Onsen ski resort or see the "snow monsters' there.

Visiting Haguro-san in winter, one of the Three Sacred Mountains of Dewa, which is covered knee-deep in snow around this time of year, does only make it on the travel wish list of Yamabushi. Appropriately, my friend and I were wearing straw boots during our walk (in warm season it would be straw sandals!), which kept our feet perfectly warm and dry. I had to visit the wara craft maker, Mr. Saito to see how he makes the boots before checking in at my accommodation.

Shukubo lodgings in the small village of Toge at the base of Mount Haguro are closed in winter. Hence, accommodation options are a hotel in Tsuruoka City, such as the Tokyo Dai-ichi Hotel, or better a ryokan in Yutagawa Onsen. I opted for the latter and stayed at Kuhe, a small and friendly ryokan located along the main road of Yutagawa.

Kuhe Ryokan has a website in English, Chinese and Korean, and all major credit cards are accepted. Very convenient!

The Kuhe Ryokan is one of the oldest accommodations in Yutagawa Onsen. It has been in operation for over 300 years. While there are ten Japanese-style inns in this small onsen village, I opted for Kuhe to see whether many years of experience in the hospitality business make a difference, and I did not get disappointed!

My room in traditional tatami style with futon faced a garden, like all rooms at Kuhe. Amazingly, guests do not have to wear slippers while walking around in the building. The constant hassle of slippers on and off, and slippers not fitting a foreigner's feet that you have elsewhere does not exist at Kuhe, how nice!

The hot spring bath was excellent. The onsen water is said to come straight from the ground and it is supposed to be good for your skin. The Yama-no-yu public bath has an indoor and an outdoor bath tub but it was freezing cold outside! If you are shy like me, then you can rent a bath tub just for yourself.

The Japanese dinner and breakfast were delicious. The content of your meals depends on the meal plan you choose. The more you pay, the more lavish it gets. Having said that, each menu is great and menus change every month to cater to each season. All ingredients are locally sourced and the dinner is accompanied by local sake.

All guests take meals in their rooms. This way you have more privacy and you can really take your time and enjoy. Who would have thought some years ago that meals taken in your room become standard in Corona times!

Getting there

Assuming that you travel to Kuhe Ryokan from Tsuruoka Station, take the Shonai Kotsu Bus bound for Yutagawa Onsen (25 min, yen 510) or take a taxi (15 min, approx. yen 3,000).

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Alena Eckelmann

Alena Eckelmann @alena.eckelmann

Born East of the Wall and South of Berlin, I am celebrating my 15th year anniversary in Japan in May 2020, the country that I call home now. I lived in crazy Tokyo for 6 years and since 2011 I call the beautiful Kii Peninsula (Kumano, Koyasan and Yoshinoyama) my home.I have been a JapanTravel Partner since the conception of the platform in 2011! In Tokyo I worked in market research at AIP Corporation and in business education at JMEC. For the last 10 years I have been a guide for foreign visitors at Venture Japan, on top of being a Freelance Writer and a Business Researcher.  Apart from work, I trained at the Yoshinkan Aikido Dojo and at the Oedo Sukeroku Taiko Dojo for several years each, and I ran the 1st Tokyo Marathon and enjoyed cycling around Tokyo. During the last 10 years I am working with local authorities to improve their hospitality to foreign visitors and I have participated in many monitors as a media representative.  My current interest is in Japanese nature and spirituality. I love spending time in the forest and mountains, and I love visiting temples and shrines.   I am a licensed guide for the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails  and for Koyasan, the Buddhist monastery, in addition to being a practitioner and licensed guide for Forest Therapy (Shinrin Therapy).  As a guide for walking tours, I have taken visitors to walk the Kumano Kodo trails, the Nakasendo trail and the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage trail.  Being grounded during this COVID-19 crisis, I enjoy gardening, baking bread in my new Japanese bread-maker and going for walks around 'my' village.  Take care, keep well, stay safe! 

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Alena Eckelmann Author 2 weeks ago
What you see in the pic is breakfast. Dinner is much bigger. The ryokan is very cozy because it is small.
Elena Lisina 2 weeks ago
Nice place and big dinner as always in ryokan! :)))