- éditeur / Junko Kurita
Spring at Bessho Onsen in Nagano, Where You Can Enjoy the Taisho Roman Atmosphere
This year is Zenkoji's Gokaicho event which happens every seven years. That and the extension of the Hokuriku shinkansen (bullet train) are leading to Nagano having a very lively spring. If you're heading to Nagano, why not stay at Bessho Onsen, the oldest hot spring in Shinshu (Nagano's ancient name)? Bessho Onsen is home to Ryokan Hanaya, an inn built in the Taisho Roman style that you should definitely visit.
From Bessho Onsen Station, you can go up the hill towards Kitamuki Kannon and you'll be able to see a bridge on the left. It's a small bridge called Hanayabashi. When you cross the bridge, you'll see the Ryokan Hanaya surrounded by white outer walls.
When you cross the bridge, the sight of the castle-like white walls will make your expectations grow larger.
While the white walls of the building will catch your eye, the second you take a step into the foyer, a stylish Japanese-Western fusion-designed space completely different from the outside will spread out in front of you.
The lobby-lounge uses furniture from the Taisho era (1912-1926).
There are 42 guest rooms in total, both in the main building and the annex. However, since the grounds are about 22,000 sq. m., it seems so wide you won't realize that there are that many rooms. When you head from the main building to the annex across the grounds, you can see seasonal plants and the lake from the countless thin hallways on the way.
The hallway made from southern Japanese hemlock that connects the buildings feels as though its one with the garden.
The hallways around the facilities have a warm atmosphere thanks to the incandescent lighting.
All of the guestrooms are decorated with different styles, and the one-knife carved pillars and ceiling are exquisitely made. Originally, this area had a lot of temples and shrines, so many carpenters specializing in temple and shrine architecture worked in the area. Those carpenters were gathered to pool their techniques and build this inn in 1917. The maintenance is still done by those types of carpenters. All the furnishings are from that time period as well, so the entire inn will make you feel as though you've slipped through time to the Taisho era. Almost all of the rooms are registered as tangible cultural properties.
All of the lighting fixtures in the halls and rooms are from the Taisho era.
The sight of the garden in the spring from the room is beautiful.
The most recommended room is #21 in the main building. It's a room that is a reconstruction from the red light district in Joetsu, Niigata, and the lacquered painting on the mismatched ceiling is striking.
Room #21 has beautiful art on the ceiling.
After you walk around the various temples and shrines around the inn, you can leisurely return and enjoy kaiseki (traditional course cuisine) made with local seasonal ingredients. There is also shabu shabu or tempura made with Chiyogen pork, a type of pork from Iida that is very rare and produced in limited quantities. You should definitely order it and enjoy the delicate texture and sweetness of the meat.
Haru no Tsukimikusa Kaiseki: the white plate in the front holds Chiyogen pork for shabu shabu.
More than anything, the slightly alkaline hot spring at Bessho Onsen is wonderful. At Hanaya, there are 3 types of baths and some annex rooms with their own baths, and all of them use water straight from the source. You don't cool down easily from this water, so when you're walking back to your room via the hallway, the spring wind blowing through feels great on your heated body. The marble bath is a great place for a long bath since the ceiling is domed, giving it a very open feeling.
The marble bath made with a Taisho Roman design.
You can feel a nostalgic atmosphere as you gaze at the light streaming through the stained glass made foggy by the steam from the hot water.
Top image: Hanaya's beautiful hallways and the flowers of the garden
Address: 169 Bessho Onsen, Ueda-shi, Nagano
Phone number: 0268-38-3131
Price: starting at 17,000 JPY (main building) or 23,000 JPY (annex) for a room for 1 or 2 people
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